The second place finish by the Nepal women's under-20 national football team in the South Asian Federation Football Under-20 Women’s Championship held in Dhaka, Bangladesh recently can be considered as a very encouraging result.
Although the Nepali outfit lost to host Bangladesh in the final they did themselves proud without a shadow of doubt. The convincing and decisive win over favorites India helped Nepal clinch a spot in the final. The victory was/is a big deal for Nepal considering the fact that they have been playing second fiddle to the opposition over the years.In other words, they have been playing a catch up game for the most part. Against the fancied opposition,they were on top of their game.
They combined aggression,confidence,cohesion,fighting spirit and determination to upset the apple cart. In the absence of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives,the tournament was limited to four teams,Bangladesh,India ,Bhutan and Nepal. The competition was played in a round robin format with the two top finishers contesting the final.Nepal lost to Bangladesh twice including the final and registered wins against India and Bhutan. Undoubtedly,there is a lot of potential in players.
With improved facilities, incentives, support, proper training and preparation, coupled with adequate international exposure, they can transform into better players and achieve the results we are striving for.
Taking into account recent performances and results, women football is on the rise.The players have improved physically and technically.This is a testament to their effort, commitment and hard work Last year the senior national team made history by defeating India for the first time in the history of the South Asian Federation Football Championship held in Kathmandu.
However, they agonizingly fell short in their effort to win the title for the first time as they went down to Bangladesh in the final. More recently Nepal held India to a draw in two friendly matches played in India.Besides, a good number of Nepali players have been recruited by Indian clubs to play in the women’s professional league.This speaks volumes of progress made by our women footballers.
The emergence of Bangladesh has changed the landscape of women’s football in South Asia. By winning the SAFF women’s championship they broke India’s decades of dominance and put themselves in pole position.In addition,they are doing well in different age groups football as well. It is high time that the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) takes a leaf from Bangladesh to turn things around. Although women's football in Nepal has been in existence for long,unfortunately,it is in a state of stagnation.
ANFA’s failure to make women's football a priority is the main reason, resulting in the game being at a virtual stalemate. The football body must be seriously committed to build and grow women's football .
More importantly, there is a need for an effective action plan in order to strengthen women’s football,including the setup of quality structures for development,necessary investment and resources.
By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax,VA, USA
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