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Football's Coming Home As Young Gorkhalis End 22 Years Of Hurt in Lalitpur (GoalNepal's Ash Chetri Writes...)
Aug 30, 2015 01:33:59 PM - Football's Coming Home As Young Gorkhalis End 22 Years Of Hurt in Lalitpur (GoalNepal's Ash Chetri Writes...)
Ash Chetri

Yesterday history was made. Nepal U-19s clinched a hard-fought title victory in the country’s first major piece of silverware in 22 years. Such a performance came after thwarting India’s chance of snatching a win from a late spotkick, sending the match into a penalty shootout tiebreaker. However, if it wasn't for Sojit Gurung’s quick hands which hampered India’s scoresheet, the result probably would have been very different.

Here are some of the reactions on social media:

This was classic Nepal?—?we had to do it the hard way. But we were assured by skipper Bimal Gharti Magar ahead of the opening match that if Nepal were to face India, Nepal will emerge victorious. This was very much welcomed by the majority of fans who experienced heartache in Sylhet after being knocked out 0–1 by India in the Semi-finals, throwing out any hopes of winning a ‘South Asian Treble’.

But to most of us fans, we had high hopes long before the start of the tournament. After all, this is the class of ‘12. If it wasn't clear before, it certainly is now. This is Nepal’s new Golden Generation in football.

So let’s take a trip down memory lane, and explore the story of the colts and how they came to be. If we rewind the clocks back to the Eve of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup. Picture the scene of FIFA President Sepp Blatter during his visit to Nepal as he lights a small lamp to inaugurate the start of the third FIFA Goal Project at Satdobato, Butwal, and Dharan. Little did he, or even we, know that this would have such a profound impact on youth level developments.

Over in Butwal, a scrawny 14 year old can be seen dribbling the ball past most of his competitors as he fights for his place at the academy. Fearless and full of confidence, he slowly impresses the ANFA scouts with his pace and technical ability. Happy with his performance, the youngster is quickly transferred to Satdobato, ANFA’s Central Academy.

Sunil Shrestha and the rest of the officials at ANFA House greet the newly selected fledglings. The boy from Butwal introduces himself as ‘Bimal’, the others follow suit and introduce themselves too. At the time, it must have been a fairly insignificant encounter. But in hindsight, this was a moment that could only be described in terms of ‘destiny’.

In the following days, and weeks, the team trained together, they ate together, they sang songs together. The Academy was a second home where they lived under one roof. But the fun and laughter certainly did not come at the expense of hard work and training, after all they had an U14 Football Festival to compete in.

Nepal v India (U14): Nepal registers an emphatic victory over their rivals on home soil in 2012 Hemant Thapa Magar (L), Bimal Gharti Magar (R)

Goals, after goals. Victory, after victory. Nepal even managed to defeat their Indian counterparts. It was clear that the Butwal tryout was emerging as a rising talent?—?and so were others including Hermant Thapa Magar, Ananta Tamang, Anjan Bista, Dinesh Rajbanshi.

Suddenly, news of a new U14 appointment started to scatter along the grapevine. A new coach was to be announced in time for the cross-cultural U14 tournament in Japan. Slowly but surely, Bal Gopal Maharjan, Nepal’s highest capped player of all time, dressed in modest attire, ushers forward to the podium and addresses his colts.

The squad flared an instant connection with the veteran as Nepal returned home, all donning large gold medals around their small necks, after registering a victory in all 4 matches.

Nepal U14 arrive home, ecstatic after a successful campaign in Japan.

However a year later, success came bittersweet when Nepal hosted the SAFF U16 Championship on home soil only to lose out to rivals India by a single goal. This experience proved to be the team’s first real taste of loss?—?to come so close, and be so far. It hurt, and the expression and look of sheer dejection in skipper Hemant Thapa Magar was evident.

Nevertheless, the side had to quickly pick themselves up and dust off any negative feelings as the continental AFC U16 Qualifiers loomed. Nepal didn’t have a favourable draw being grouped together with the likes of Iraq, Bahrain and Turkmenistan. But with Magar spearheading the line-up as the new captain (and as the host side), fans were expecting their boys to spring a surprise following the disappointment of the 2013 SAFF Championship.

And the home supporters were not let down. Nepal U16 got off to a dream start with a stunning 2–0 defeat of Bahrain, soon a remarkable comeback to draw 2–2 with Iraq which left the Young Gorkhalis on the edge of qualification. Reassured and relaxed, the teenagers completed the job as they routed Turkmenistan 4–0 to progress to the finals tournament.

The team was now 4 wins away from qualifying the FIFA U-17 World Cup. This was motivation enough for the entire nation to get behind the young colts as they prepared for a long and arduous series of months in the road to Bangkok 2014.

Gleaming with confidence, Magar said, “Before the qualifiers, we used to play against teams from South Asia. So the qualifiers gave us the confidence that we could tackle teams outside South Asia as well. It gave us the confidence that we are on par with them.

“When we defeated the teams in the qualifiers, we felt we can take on any teams.”

Although sadly, history did not favour Nepal this time as the team failed to make it past the group stages in Thailand. The Gorkhali’s dream of sending Nepal to a World Cup Finals tournament was over. But despite this cold truth, there was a sense of jubilation for these crop of players.

Asked about his team and thoughts of the future after returning from a disappointing campaign in Thailand in 2014, Bimal, the boy from Butwal replied, “Our team is good. I feel proud to be part of this.”

The rest, they say, is history…

Ash Chetri is a columnist at For questions and comments, you can tweet him on twitter @Ashtopher.
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