Friday talks to the president of the national women’s football team, Brinda Dewan, about the history and progress of the national women’s team.
Women can conquer the world if they are given the right shoes, and our Nepali chelis wearing football boots kicked-off in the mid-1980s, starting with a debut match against Hong Kong in December 1986. Even though Nepal lost the match, they moved on to participate in the three final phases of the Asian Cup in 1986, 1989, and 1999. Nepal’s first women’s team captain was Rama Singh, who started playing from 1985 and represented Bagmati team. The second team captain was Kamala Hirachan, who represented Gandaki team, and the third captain was Meera Chaudhary, who represented Narayani team. Rama Singh later became the first news reader in Nepali television history, and Meera Chaudhary got appointed as a DSP in Nepal Police.
As a result of the return of democracy in 1990, there was an eight-year period without a women’s national team. This had so much of adverse effect in recruitment and trainings of the players. Moreover, many women’s tournaments could not be conducted due to the absence of women’s teams. Nevertheless, our chelis returned to international football during the Women’s Asian Cup in 1999. Even after their successful return, the results were the same as before the eight-year break. Nepal lost four games to Japan, Thailand, Uzbekistan, and Philippines, respectively. This still did not stop the chelis from playing, and they played in the Managaladevi League, which was roughly a month-long women’s football tournament set to bring in women footballers across the country. The league was played in early 2000 on a league-cum-knockout basis.
Nepal had to go through a long time without playing any match, but they proved themselves in the South Asia Games in 2010. They reached the finals by beating several opponents by a wide margin, and despite their thorough dedication and hard work, Nepal lost the match against India. This league gave the Nepal team much needed recognition. Later, in the opening match of 2010 South Asian Games, Nepal women’s U23 team played against Bangladesh, where they won with a single score, and they also won the second match against Sri Lanka that was proved to be more victorious as they defeated them with eight goals, while holding a clean sheet. However, Nepal’s scoring spree was short-lived, as the third group-stage match against India saw a heavy loss of 0-5. Even though they lost the match with India, Nepal had qualified for the semi-finals against Pakistan and won the match with 7 goals. This gave big hope for the chelis to win against India, but they lost the match with a score line of 1-3. From this league, the chelis were successful in returning home with the silver,l which was a proud moment to many Nepali supporters.
Talking about recent and future affairs,, Sajana Rana Magar has been appointed the captain and Renuka Nagarkoti, the vice-captain, of the Nepal women’s team. President Brinda Dewan also said that they are in the process of selecting another captain for the chelis. Furthermore, National Women team is going to participate in SAFF Women's Championship that is going to be held in Bhutan from 9th to 18th of August this year. Later in September 2018, women team will play in a qualifier round from 15th to 23rd September in AFC U-16 tournament followed by SAFF U-18 Women's Championship from 28th September to 7th October. Another qualifiers round is going to be held from 20th to 28th October for AFC U-19 tournament and at the end of this year i.e. from December 14th to 23rd women team is going to appear for SAFF Women's Championship.
“Challenges do not lack for chelis; also, the women’s team was idle for a long time, but we have started from the ground and somehow shaped up our team for future games,” says Brinda. The chelis are moving forward by breaking the stereotypes, and Brinda is approaching school boards to conduct the examinations of the players wherever they are. The management and technical team are working with dedication to provide motivation for women, and Brinda also says that the women’s team need better diet, grounds, and other facilities.