Testing time ahead for Nepal Police

KATHMANDU: Nepal Police Club (NPC) are the defending champions of the Martyrs Memorial A Division League. After the A Division League stalled for three consecutive years thanks to the dispute between the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) and the then Nepal Football Association, NPC remained the defending champions and represented Nepal at the AFC President's Cup on three occasion by default.

On papers, NPC can be considered one of the strongest sides among the 12 clubs in fray. After stepping in the A Division League Football under the ANFA in 2004, they finished as runners up and ended up with the same fate the following year. Although the departmental team finished fourth in 2006, they went on to clinch the league in 2007. NPC are the five times champion of the reputed Aaha Gold Cup of Pokhara and have won the Budha Subba Gold Cup of Dharan four times.

However, injuries to key players and the players going out of form, is a real concern for the departmental team ahead of the February 20 kick off. Also, the year has also not fare well for the Policemen as they have won just one domestic knockout tournament -- Aaha Gold Cup.

Coach Birat Krishna Shrestha is also doubtful of his side coming in true colors. NPC are hit by the injuries of their regulars Ju Manu Rai, Chetan Ghimire, Rakesh Shrestha and Deepak Poudel. "There has also been no real preparation time. Some of our team members played back to back international tournaments in the 11th SA Games and sixth SAFF Championships apart from competing in the domestic tournaments." said Shrestha.

Shrestha is also regretting of not having Yogesh Shrestha and Dipesh Shrestha at their services. Although they have been playing for the club since 2008, the football's governing body, ANFA, have ruled the players to stick on with the teams they signed in 2007, meaning the duo will be representing Jawalakhel Youth Club.

Under these circumstances, NPC will be trying their junior players and field a mixed team with the inclusion of second choice players. Coach Shrestha said he would be opting for the second choice players in Ramesh Katuwal, Pradeep Baniya, Pankaj Shahi, Suraj BK, Jitendra Bista and Roshan Karki in the playing set. "We will have to bring some new faces in the playing set. It would be a time of experiment and test for us," said Shrestha.

Suman Subedi, Rabin Shrestha, Parbat Pandey and Ananta Thapa are the only fit players in NPC's regular squad. Coach Shrestha, however, is hopeful of recovery of his key players with the progression of league and said there would be no downfall in team's performance.

Shrestha is currently assisted by the former Nepali international Hari Khadka, who captained league winning side of 2007. Khadka is also hopeful that key player will be able to perform once they recover from the injuries.

"If the key players come out of injury and find back their form we can be the best among others," said Khadka.