Fri, 22 Mar, 2019

A Brink of Hope

By Asmit Ojha

Art By: Sneha Parajuli

The young Nepalese Under-19 football team has finally ended the 22-year long trophy drought in football by winning the SAF U-19 championship 2015. Being the hosts and with a massive home support at their back, young talented kids were able to live up to the expectations of all the Nepalese. Having been hit by a massive earthquake and lately, violence in different parts of the country, this win has given some reason for celebrations to the entire country.

Due to the partial damage to the 'Dashrath Stadium' by the earthquake, the only football stadium in the country, the whole tournament was held at ANFA Complex, Satdobato which has spectator capacity of about 3,000. In the regular 90 minutes time, arch rivals Nepal and India locked horns 1-1 but Nepalese goalkeeper Sojit Gurung helped claim victory by stopping the very first shot from the Indian taker.  Before, Midfielder Tej Tamang had led Nepal by scoring a lovely goal in the 31st minute. Unfortunately, Nepal's game play seemingly went down in the 2nd half and defender Dinesh Rajbanshi gave away a penalty due to hand ball inside the D-area, due to which India marched right back into the game. But, the goalkeeper turned brave to earn a well deserved victory and earn a first trophy for Nepal in any age bar in last 22 years.

Winning this tournament has brought back the hope to many football fans in Nepal. More importantly, it has given a reason to cherish for Nepalese people in a long time amid current circumstances in the country. After the victory, almost every Nepalese people were in social media congratulating the players and celebrating victory. A victory rally with bikes and national flags waving was organized in major cities like Kathmandu, Chitwan, Pokhara, Biratnagar, etc. PM Sushil Koirala, Maoist Leader Baburam Bhattarai, actor Haribansha Acharya, Gagan Thapa, Keki Adhikari, etc., were all on Twitter giving congratulations and wishing bright future for Nepalese Football. Further, Government of Nepal has decided to award each players of the winning team with NRs. 100,000 each.

All the players and ANFA has dedicated this victory to all the earthquake victims and thanked all people for constant support and co-ordination. The overwhelming support was clearly visible as around 10,000 people gathered outside of the ANFA ground for 3,000 available tickets as early as 5:00 am in the day of the final match. The roofs and balconies of the houses around the ANFA ground and every visible portion of the streets were packed with people. Also, thousands watched the live telecast by Kantipur Gold.

This is just a small step forward for a huge future. If these young lads can get international exposure on a continuous basis and all the technical support, they can go a long way ahead and prove that Nepal also possess the ability and mojo to succeed with other world giants at the highest level.

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