Victorious team gets warm welcome

Kathmandu, January 23

The Bangabandhu Gold Cup winners Nepal national football team members received a grand welcome upon their arrival at the Tribhuvan International Airport here on Saturday.

Nepal lifted the Bangabandhu Gold Cup for their first major trophy after 23 years, defeating Bahrain 3-0 in the final at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Friday. The last time Nepal bagged the title was in 1993 South Asian Federation Games at the same venue.

Thousands of football fans, All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) officials, former players, friends and relatives of players flocked the airport to welcome the team. The players were then taken to a victory parade from the airport to Dasharath Stadium via Gaushala, Battisputali, Maitidevi, Dillibazar, Putalisadak, Pradarsani Marg, Bhadrakali, New Road, Ratnapark and Tripureshwor.

The players were cheered by fans, while National Sports Council Member Secretary Keshab Kumar Bista and ANFA officials honoured the champions.

Member Secretary Bista said Nepali football should look ahead from now on. “In the past, football went through tough time but the win in Bangladesh is a new beginning of golden period. The win is the victory of all Nepali citizens,” said Bista. “We expect same performance from you in the upcoming 12th South Asian Games. I will request the government to provide the players with Rs 200,000 each,” he added.

Nepal coach Bal Gopal Maharjan said their target was semi-finals when they left for the tournament, "But after we entered the last four, all the team members started thinking of title. We had a serious problem in finishing in the past. But this team showed that we have quality finishers and we are capable in all departments. We kept clean sheets in four matches out of the five we played," said Maharjan.

"Goalkeeper Bikesh Kuthu was outstanding. He was praised by the organisers as well as our opponents. Full credit goes to the goalkeeping coach Upendra Man Singh, who has put in a lot of hard works. In my opinion, my colleague Singh is the best goalkeeping coach in South Asia,” Maharjan added.

Skipper Biraj Maharjan said team followed the strategy of the coaches that gave fantastic results. "We worked hard in all the departments," he said. "I don't have words to describe the title winning moment. Thank you all," said the emotional skipper.

ANFA acting President Narendra Shrestha requested the Member Secretary to renovate the stadium destroyed by the earthquake at the earliest. “This young squad has proved that Nepal had the potential to compete in international arena. In order to develop football, we need to conduct activities on a regular basis for which we need proper infrastructure. We would like to request the government to take this matter seriously and get Dasharath Stadium as soon as possible,” he said.

In Bangladesh, Nepal started the campaign with a 0-0 draw against Felda United of Malaysia. Nepal then defeated Sri Lanka 1-0 and played a goalless draw against home team to make it to the last four as group runners-up. In the semi-finals, Nepal thrashed the Maldives 4-1 and thumped Bahrain U-23 team 3-0 in final. The ANFA has announced the reward of Rs 500,000 each to the team members.