A Year of Challenges and Triumphs: A Review of Nepali Football in 2080 BS

In the year 2080, the biggest achievement for Nepali football was reaching the finals of WAF Women's Football Championship. For the first time, women's football introduced Nepal as a strong competitor even outside of South Asia. But in the 38-year history of women's football, Nepal once again missed out on winning the first international title when the 5-time winning team Jordan was defeated in the sudden death.

Men's Football: Trials & Transition

This year, Nepali football earned more talk outside the field than inside the field. Like the previous year, when the parent association All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) was involved in its own internal dispute, this year also very famous players chose to flee abroad. The biggest name among them was Bimal Gharti Magar. Bimal could not stop himself in the turmoil of being thrown abroad due to the poor economic and political situation of the country. Along with Bimal, the big names who will migrate to Australia this year are Deepak Raj Singh Thakuri, Bikash Khawas and Ashish Chaudhary.

The men's team, which had a pleasant start of 2080 years by lifting the Prime Minister's Three Nations Cup including Laos and Bhutan in Chaitra 2079, started playing the main tournament SAFF Championship 2023 from June. Ironically, Nepal, who was also the runner-up in the previous edition, was eliminated from the group stage this time.

SAFF Championship Disappointment: Men's Team Performance Analysis

For the first time, two strong Middle East countries, Kuwait and Lebanon, participated as invited countries. Nepal placed in Group A, lost 3-1 against Kuwait, 2-0 against India, and 1-0 against Pakistan. After Yam Ghale, when forward Anjan Bisha scored a historic goal against Kuwait, Aashish Chaudhary scoring a goal for a hard-fought victory against Pakistan has now gone to Australia.

Immediately after the match, the team went to Myanmar and played two friendly matches in preparation for the World Cup selection. While in the first match, Nepal's domestic team drew 0-0 against Myanmar, and lost the second match by 1-0. Being at the bottom of the list, Nepal, who played the World Cup qualifiers directly from the second round last year, had to go through the first round this time, where they met Laos as their opponent.

In the first leg, Nepal played a disappointing 1-1 draw against a relatively weak Laos at Dashrath Stadium, and in the second leg, they secured their place in the second round by defeating Laos 1-0 in the away fixture at the same ground. By returning the equalizing goal against Laos, forward Anjan Bista Hari Khadka and Nirajan Rayamaji managed to equal the record of 13 goals this year.

Exodus of Talent: Impact of Player Migration on the National Team

Nepal, which entered the second round with a win, entered the competition in a tough group consisting of UAE, Bahrain and Yemen. But unfortunately, after playing 4 out of 6 games, Nepal has lost all of them and has already left the second stage before 2 games. After losing 4-0 to UAE in the first leg, Nepal lost 2-0 to Yemen at their own home ground. Due to their own carelessness, Nepal lost against Bahrain 5-0 in the first leg and 3-0 in the second leg.

Throughout the year, men's football has only disappointed the common fans. This year, Nepal played 12 international matches in all, where the team lost only 2 matches, that too in the last match of the SAFF Championship group stage against Pakistan and in the second leg of the World Cup first qualifier against Lassos, and suffered defeat in 8 matches. Similarly, 2 matches were tied. Nepal scored 22 goals in the 12 matches they played and managed to score only 4 goals. Anjana became the top scorer with 2 goals this year.

As in the previous year, this year too, the direct impact of the exodus of players was seen in the performance of the national men's football team. The head coach Vincenzo Alberto Annesse is also in a hard position to make the team. Whenever a new player is given a chance in the team, after playing 2-3 games after the debut, those players are thrown to Australia.

Nepal Super League: Rejuvenating Domestic Football Amidst Challenges

After the dispute of 10 senior players with the former head coach Abdullah Almutairi, the migration of players abroad does not seem to stop due to the uncertainty of the Nepal Super League. In addition, the second edition of the Nepal Super League, which was completed this year, made a big effort to bring back the atmosphere lost by domestic football in Nepal to some extent. Although the low popularity of the audience towards Nepali domestic football hurt NSL in the initial stage, the tournament drew a good number of spectators from the knockout stage. The NSL, which was organized in the midst of economic recession, brought out many new talents. The competition also made it easier for the coach to find new talent for the national team.

Women's Football: Breaking Barriers and Making History

The atmosphere of Nepali football, which was not very encouraging throughout the year, was warmed up by the women's team. For the first time, the women's team made it to the finals of the WAF Women's Championship in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as an invited team, with much less investment than the men.

Despite the fact that domestic women's football activities have been stopped for two years, the performance of the female players has attracted the attention of the whole world. Ironically, our 38-year-old girl, who succeeded in leading the 5-time winner against Jordan to the penalty shootout after losing her important players, failed to win the first major trophy in the history of women's football.

Sabitra Bhandari: Paving the Way in Europe

The year 2080 became memorable not only for the Nepali women's national football team but also for the forward and goal machine Sabitra Bhandari. In terms of personal achievements, Samba became the first Nepali player to play football in Europe. She was first signed by the Israeli club Hapoel Ranana last May to play in the professional league there. But she did not get to play samba for a long time in Israel. She returned home because of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Soon after, she was signed to a club playing in the top division of France, which is the dream of many women players in the world, and managed to make a record of playing in the "Top League" of Europe.

Samba achieved a historically significant feat by joining France's En Avant Guingamp. 2080 will be a memorable year for Sabitra and Nepali sports as a whole as the year Nepalese athletes competed professionally in Europe.

The Rise of Nepali Women's Football on the Global Stage

Whether it is an age group competition or a senior set-up, Nepali football remained without a title this year. However, at the beginning of the year 2080, the senior women's football team won the title of the friendly football series with Bangladesh in June.

As a whole, the end of the year 2080, when women became football, has prepared a strong blueprint for the new year 2081. At the beginning of this year, the Nepali women's team has been invited from Lebanon for the tri-country FIFA series, and this year, the team is playing the much-awaited Women's SAFF Championship, which will be held in Bangladesh from October. On the men's football side, there are no big tournaments worth remembering for Nepal this year except for the rest of the FIFA World Cup Asian 2nd qualifying matches.

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