On Tuesday, Abdullah Almutairi, the head coach of the men’s national football team of Nepal, announced a 23-member squad for the upcoming friendly match against Iraq and the remaining three matches of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. Almutairi finalised this team by axing nine players from the 32 players included in the preliminary training.
This reshuffled squad includes six new faces whereas 10 players of the Three Nations Cup-winning team last April have also made the cut. Likewise, Nawayug Shrestha, Santosh Tamang, Pujan Uparkoti, Bikas Khawas, and Suman Aryal, who failed to make it to the team in the Three Nations Cup, have been called back. Suman Lama and Ashish Lama have also rejoined the team.
Almutairi has left out some of the popular players like Bharat Khawas, Ranjit Dhimal while giving opportunities to the young players in this team on the basis of their performance in the first season of the Nepal Super League held from April 24 to May 15.
Bishal Sunar, Gautam Shrestha, Kamal Thapa, Ayush Ghalan, Suraj Thakuri, and Manish Dangi are those new young players who have made it to the senior team for the first team.
Let’s know each of them better:
1. Bishal Sunar (Goalkeeper)
Sunar has played for various national youth teams, such as the under-16 and under-18 national teams. He was also called for training for the Three Nations Cup in the national camp but failed to make it to the final squad. Still, his participation in that training opened a new opportunity; he was listed in the A category for the NSL and thus was contracted by FC Chitwan for Rs 200,000.
He played five games for the club. In his first NSL match itself, he saved a penalty from Lalitpur City Fc’s captain Anjan Bista. But, he was sent off in the fifth match, which was against Pokhara Thunders, with a red card.
In the past, he had played for Brigade Boys Club in the A Division League. Similarly, he also played for Manang Marsyangdi in the Aaha Rara Gold Cup in Pokhara.
2. Gautam Shrestha (Defender)
In the NSL, Shrestha played for Pokhara Thunders. Before the NSL, he played for Jawalakhel Youth club in the A Division League last time and also for Tribhuvan Army Football Club in the AFC Cup Qualifiers. Likewise, he has also played a friendly match as a national team member against Kyrgyzstan’s U-23 team.
In the NSL, he played four out of six games of the team, three full time. His excellent performance in the NSL landed him a position in the national squad.
3. Kamal Thapa (Midfielder)
Thapa, who has already played in the national youth teams, also played for Pokhara Thunders in the NSL. He replaced Bhishan Gurung in the team and got the opportunity to play only the last three games of the league. Although he spent only a short time on the field as an alternate player, he managed to impress head coach Almutairi.
In domestic football, he played in the A Division League for Himalayan Sherpa. He is the batchmate of Anjan Bista, Bimal Gharti Magar and Ananta Tamang at the ANFA Academy.
4. Ayush Ghalan (Midfielder)
Ghalan, whose name was rarely heard of in domestic football before the NSL, won the hearts of many by his excellent performance in the recent league. He also played for Pokhara Thunders in the NSL. Though he only played for six minutes in his debut match, he became the first-choice in the remaining five NSL matches.
Before the NSL, he played for Khumalatar FC in the B Division League this season. In a short span, he succeeded in making his place in the national team.
5. Suraj Thakuri (Midfielder)
Suraj Thakuri played for Biratnagar City FC in the NSL. Entering the ground as a substitute in the opening game, he played the last three games as a first-choice full-time midfielder. His performance overshadowed many great players in the NSL.
Before this league, he played for Jawalakhel Youth Club in the A Division League .
6. Manish Dangi (Midfielder)
Dangi also played for Biratnagar City in the NSL. He had earlier played in the C Division League and also played in the SAFF U-18 Championship in Nepal. He played in all six league games for Biratnagar City FC in the NSL as a substitute. Although he could not make it to starting 11, he played very well when given the opportunity.
He plays in any position but mostly plays as a winger. He had earlier played in the C Division League for Khalibari Football Club. Dangi, who had been living in South Korea, played in the C Division League when he came to Nepal to apply for citizenship.