Preeti Rai-The shine of an uprising little football star in Nepalese Women Football

16th September, 2022 a date marked in the history book of Nepalese women football, the very day Nepal defeated the mighty India in their 12 years of SAFF Women's Championship for the 5th final. A only goal from the no.10 Rashmi Ghising was the only difference to achieve the feat. That goal was an excellent art & behind it there was a mini little picasso named "Preeti Rai". This very name could be new to those who've just been following Nepalese women's football. Here's how a girl playing from futsal & local tournament made her way into the National team.

17 years old Preeti, who hails from Gundel, Solukhumbu started enjoying football while playing with her younger brothers at the age of 6-7 years. Preeti used to play as a striker in her early days. A girl who has always been idolizing Argentine star Lionel Messi always feel her responsibility to wait for the ball & score when she got it. Later on she changed her role to midfield since she loves play the ball a lot, which is the opportunity that a midfielder gets.

Journey: Playing from a boys futsal team to the playing 11 of Nepal National Women's team

Preeti started playing competitive games from futsal & local tournaments in Kapan, Kathmandu. She used to be the only girl in the boy's futsal team to play. In a very young age during 2015, Preeti joined National Youth Programme (NYP), a youth oriented social organization based in Kathmandu. She came during the training & asked the coach whether she will be allowed to get training along with the boys. Without any objection, NYP gave her the freedom of enjoying playing football. Preeti was the first girl in NYP to get her training with the boys. She never give up her mentality, fought hard and proved herself that she can play football.

The hard work, dedication, discipline and the support & training of NYP, she was selected in the District Level Football games and proved herself as the best midfielder in Coca Cola football tournament (School level).  Within the years, with her improved performances, she earned the captaincy for Junior Girls National Football Team (U-15) in 2017.  Since then, she became the regular member of Junior Girls National Football Team (U-15, U-16, U-17 & U-19). Beside the junior national team, she joined Armed Police Force football club in 2019 and became the winner of national women football league with the team. She was called up by the then U-15 women’s coach Ganga Gurung in the departmental side APF.

The debut to remember for the national team

It was just on last edition of SAFF Women’s Championship 2019 when Preeti was called up for 30 players list in the closed camp by Hari Khadka but couldn’t make into last 23. It was on September 9 2021 (Bhadra 24, 2078 BS Teej) Preeti debuted from the senior National Women’s team  under the then coach Gary Phillips against Bangladesh on an international friendly match held in Dashrath Stadium Kathmandu. It was Rashmi Gurung, Preeti Rai & Savita Rana who got their maiden entry to the national team. Savita & Preeti even got the opportunity to start in the first playing 11 and they both scored for Nepal to get a 2-1 victory against the guest team Bangladesh. With an outstanding performance in her debut match, Preeti was adjudged with the man of the match award too.

Preeti's continuation in the national team

Again on the very month of September 2021, Preeti was called up in the final squad of the Nepal National Women’s team for their AFC Women’s Asian Cup qualification 2022 campaign in Tashkent Uzbekistan. Drawn in the group F Nepal were very close to AFC Women’s cup but that 2-1 loss against Philippines in the very first match of the group stage got them knocked out. Leading the game with 1-0 in the early 10 minutes of the game it was a nightmare for the team to lose the game in the 90+ minutes by 2-1. Preeti played against both Philippines & Honkong in the qualification and earned 3 international caps for her nation. Nearly a year after Preeti has been representing Nepal as one of the prolific midfielder in the SAFF Women’s Championship 2022.

Preeti as captain Renuka's alternative

Coach Kumar Thapa has an expectation from her to fill the gap of the former captain Renuka Nagarkoti after she missed the SAFF due to clavicle (collar bone or beauty bone) injury. And Preeti has stood on coach Thapa’s expectation with her crucial presence in the team. Just 4 feet & 10 inches little girl showed her class at the very age of 17. Although she looks physically small, she has an amazing footwork & could easily surprise one or two opponents. A tempting dribbling from this small girl has always been a confusing task for the opponent’s defender to stop in the ongoing competition.                  

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