Players of national volleyball team during a training session at Nepal Army's physical training and Sports Center in Lagankhel, Lalitpur on Wednesday. Photo: Bijay Gajmer/Republica
KATHMANDU, Dec 8: Nepali national volleyball team is flying to Bangladesh without playing a single friendly match as Nepal Volleyball Association (NVA) failed to manage it as a preparation for the Asian Senior Men's Central Zone Volleyball Championship to be held in Dhaka from December 22.
Though Nepal had planned to play a friendly match against host Bangladesh, it was cancelled due to financial problems.
“We had proposed for a friendly match with Bangladesh and had planned to fly to Bangladesh a week before the kick off. But, they said that they can't bear the expenses of the Nepali team's stay before the tournament,” said Jagdish Prasad Bhatta, head coach of the national volleyball team.
“Since our association is also not in condition to bear the expenses we cancelled that friendly,” he added.
In last year's tournament held in Bangladesh, Nepal had crashed out from the semifinals. This year as well, the tournament will see eight teams including host Bangladesh, Nepal, the Maldives, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
Coach Bhatta is well aware of the importance of practice match before international fixture. He is also eager to check if the players have adapted to his tactics well and know about their weaknesses. But NVA's failure to manage friendly match before the tournament has hit his ambition of checking the team.
“The matches played against local teams during the preparation is not much effective to know how players have improved because everyone knows each others' weakness and strength,” said Bhatta. “So friendly match against abroad teams is effective to know the extent of improvement of the team. But we are going to Bangladesh without knowing how far we have gone.”
NVA has already finalized the 12-member squad from the 17-member preliminary squad which had been training since one month.
The final squad announced on November 28 will be training in Nepal Army's Physical Training and Sports Center in Lagankhel until December 20.
The squad consists of Man Bahadur Shrestha, Kul Bahadur Thapa, Dhan Bahadur Bhatta, Bijay Thapa as open spikers while Mahendra Shrestha, Bhuwan Karki and Bhairav Bam are quickers.
Similarly, Captain Im Rana Magar and Hari Hajur Thapa will be in setter's role while Narendra Giri and Dev Sharma will take charge of side spike in the team. Ishwar Thapa is given the role of libero in the squad. Departmental players have dominated the squad as seven out of 12 players are from Tribhuvan Army Club, three from Armed Police Club and two from Nepal Police club.
Four players including Dhan Bahadur Bhatta, Bhuwan Karki, Narendra Giri and Ishwar Thapa are new faces in the team while remaining eight have the experience of playing in the 12 South Asian Games (SAG) held in India in February earlier this year.
“This time, our squad is very young. Despite eight of them having played in the SAG, we can't label this squad as experienced. Despite such circumstance, our target will be bagging medal, at least bronze,” said head coach Bhatta.
Nepal had returned empty handed last year after losing the third-place match against Afghanistan. Nepal had defeated Bangladesh and Kyrgyzstan and lost to the Maldives and Turkmenistan in the group stage then.
Last year's winner Turkmenistan is the strongest team in the championship and the Maldives, the other finalists, is another tough nut to crack says Bhatta, who will be leading the national team for the first time as head coach.
“Beside Turkmenistan and the Maldives, other teams are of our level,” Bhatta said. “I have watched opponents' video clips and trained the players accordingly. We have planned our playing style according to our opponents,” said Bhatta, who was an assistant coach in the last three editions of the SAG.
The participating teams will be divided into two groups of four teams each. The winner and runner-up from each group will make it to the semifinal.
Bhatta has pointed to blocking and receiving as the major drawbacks of the team. “We need to work on blocking and receiving since we are weak in these departments. I think we can sort this out until the championship begins,” said the former national player Bhatta, who retired in 2004 after playing for 13 years for the national team.
“Spike, service and defense are our strength. Thus I am hopeful for optimum use of them so we can balance our performances,” added Bhatta.
Bhatta, who holds the license of level two coaching course in volleyball, says this championship will be a real test of his coaching career. “Nepali volleyball team is yet to win any international trophy so I have dreamed to be the first coach to guide the national team to international success,” said Bhatta.