KATHMANDU, Nov 13: A non-departmental team scripted its name in history books in women's football in Nepal last Wednesday playing in the final of a major national tournament for the first time in domestic football. An interesting fact about the team was that it was studded with all teenage players.
All member of the Central Region, the runner-up of the Fourth CoAS International Football Tournament, belonged to 14 to 18 years age group. Moreover, 14 among the 19 members of the squad were from Rautahat district. Seven of them were also from Durga Secondary School of Rautahat that won the Coca Cola Cup Inter School Football Tournament two months earlier. Besides players from Rautahat, the team comprised three players from Kathmandu and two other from Sindhupalchok.
A day after playing Central Region thumped Far Western Region 7-0 during the first match of the tournament, officials of Tribhuvan Army Club of Nepal Army had shown interest to sign more than half a dozen of its players. The very team edged past title favorite army 3-1 on penalties in the semifinal to fix the final date against Armed Police Force. Central Region eventually lost the final 3-1.
Former A division player Noor Raj Kafle was the coach of the team of teenagers. The transformation of the local-level players to top quality national players however was not achieved overnight. Kafle had been nurturing the young girls since the last two years at his home town in Chandranigahapur.
“We had played just one match and the army officials were already impressed with our players. So they expressed their interest in signing our eight players,” said 33-year-old Kafle who is the product of ANFA Academy.
“This is probably the biggest achievement of my two-year long coaching career. I had started coaching in my hometown setting target of securing players' future in football.
Playing for a departmental team could secure future of these players,” said Kafle, who has been serving as the head coach of Rautahat women's football team voluntarily.
The 14 players from Rautahat were from among the pool of 65 players Kafle has been training in Chandranigahapur.
Regarding his team's upset win over Army, Kafle has pointed out motivation as the key factor. “I told them that army wanted to sign them and motivated them saying if they weren't talented army wouldn't have shown interest in them,” Kafle revealed the secret behind his motivated players. “I tried to convince them that they were talented players and could beat anyone in the tournament,” he added.
“All 14 players from Rautahat train regularly with me and rest of the five players were selected on the basis of their performance they had shown in the Coca Cola Cup,” Kafle clarified about team formation.
Central Region had conducted 15 days' closed-camp training before coming to Kathmandu. “As most of the players were from Rautahat, the 15-day training was enough for me to set the team,” said Kafle. In the first match, he had picked nine players from Rautahat and the remaining two were from Sindhupalchok. In the match against Army and APF, the starting XI he picked were full of his trainees.
Kafle had played professional football for 10 years with four A Division clubs of the country before ending his playing career three years back. He also holds AFC C coaching license.
Self-motivated Kafle shouldered the coaching responsibility in Rautahat after the then coach Sher Bahadur Darlami died three years ago. Kafle decided to take Darlami's place after the young girls became coach-less. “After Darlami's death, there was no one to continue his role. Then I decided to return to my hometown and start coaching those young girls,” he said.
Goalkeeper Anjana Rana Magar,15, defenders Nisha Thokar,16, Anju Lopchan,16, Riya Thokar,18, Monika Kuswar,18, are the players army is interested to sign. Similarly, midfielder Manisha Raut, 17, and striker Rashmi Kumari Ghising, 14, are other two players to draw the attention of army.
“Army has said that it will give job to those players who meet the criteria for the minimum age required to get enlisted in the army. For those who don't meet the criteria, it will allow them to train in Rautahat and will call them during tournament,” said Kafle about the army's offer.
“There are many other talented players training under me. I am sure they also will get offer from departmental teams in the future,” Kafle said, adding that support of locals and guardians was also phenomenal for their achievement.
Though Kafle and his young squad were supported by Plan Nepal, an INGO, in their coaching course in Rautahat since more than five years, the contract has expired five months ago.
“Our contract with Plan Nepal expired five months ago but they have told us that they will renew the contract very soon,” informed Kafle. He also said that the training kits and playing materials provided by the INGO are used during their trainings.
After leading the Central Region to the final of the CoAS women's football, Kafle expects to get another chance to lead the team in the upcoming Seventh National Games.
“I hope Central Region Football Association gives me chance to coach this team again,” said Kafle.