Photo Courtesy: NSC Members of Nepal’s national volleyball team pose for a group photo with dignitaries during a farewell program in Kathmandu on Sunday.
KATHMANDU, March 19: Before flying to Bangladesh last year to take part in the second edition of the Asian Senior Central Zone Men's Volleyball Championship, Jagdish Bhatta, coach of the national team had said that Nepal's target would be winning its first international medal. However Nepal's hope of bagging the first ever international medal in volleyball was crushed by the Maldives in the third-place playoff.
Nepal is flying to another South Asian country, the Maldives, on Monday to take part in the third edition of the tournament with the same target -- to taste its first international success. "Last time we were very close to our target but injury of two key players - Narendra Giri and Dhan Bahadur Bhatta -- in the last moment hampered our performance. Unavailability of these players against Kyrgyzstan and the Maldives cost us the match," coach Bhatta recalled.
"This time as well our target is the same, to witness first international success in volleyball and we are very much hopeful we can achieve that target," said Bhatta who is assisting head coach Birendra Prasad Chaudhary this time. However, Bhatta was head coach of the national team during the second edition of the championship.
The championship scheduled for March 22 to 30 will feature four nations including host Maldives, Nepal, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan and all the teams will face each other in round robin format.
However the last edition of the championship had featured seven nations including host Bangladesh, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and the Maldives.
Nepal will take on Turkmenistan in its first match on March 23 and host Maldives a day later while it will face Kyrgyzstan on March 27. The team finishing on top will automatically qualify for the final.
Meanwhile, teams finishing second and third in the round robin league will vie in play off to determine the fate of the second finalist.
The coaching team of Chaudhary and Bhatta had called 25 players for the closed-camp training one month ago and trimmed the squad to 12 after 20 days. The final squad that is studded with players from departmental teams has included four new faces including Durga Prasad Mahato, Dil Bahadur Sunar, Hari Bahadur Adhikari and Rajkumar Niroula. Durga, Dil and Hari play for Tribhuvan Army Club while Armed Police Force (APF)'s Rajkumar is another newcomer in the side.
Coach Bhatta said the team, during a month-long training, tried to rectify the weaknesses seen during second edition of the tournament held in December.
Nepal will have to register at least one win to secure medal. "Among the participating nations, Turkmenistan is the strongest one and the remaining teams are similar to Nepal," said Bhatta, adding, "Our target is to beat Maldives. We had beaten them in league round match of the second edition but they avenged the defeat in the third-place play off."
This competition was introduced by Asian Volleyball Association (AVA) for emerging nations of central zone of the continent. AVA has left out higher level teams like India, Pakistan and Iran. As Nepal is lower-ranked country in Asian volleyball, registering wins in Male will help it improve its ranking which will eventually help Nepal Volleyball Association (NVA) to earn grants from the Federation of International Volleyball (FIVB), according to Bhatta.
"Our participation had just been formality in the past, but we will be fighting for medal in this edition," said Bhatta.
The 16-member Nepali team flying to the Maldives consists of 12 players and four officials including two coaches, team manager Dambar Bahadur Nepali and referee candidate Chandra Bandana Rai.
Meanwhile, Minister for Youth and Sports Daljit Sripali, NVA's President Manoranjan Raman Sharma among others bade farewell to the Male-bound squad in the capital on Sunday.
Im Rana Magar (captain), Durga Prasad Mahato, Man Bahadur Shrestha, Dhan Bahadur Bhatta, Kul Bahadur Thapa, Dil Bahadur Sunar, Mahendra Shrestha, Hari Bahadur Adhikari, Bhairav Bahadur Bam, Narendra Giri, Rajkumar Niroula and Ishwar Bahadur Thapa.