Sudeep Shikhrakar is a 27-year-old footballer full of energy and passion, who gives his best in the games he plays. Sudeep explains how he started playing football since he was in the 6th grade, and he says, “I used to play in the alleyways around my home with my friends, and from then I realized I wanted to play, as it gave me great joy.” From the alleyways, Sudeep went on to play in the bigger arena, where he got the recognition he deserved.
From the 6th grader matches, Sudeep started building a deep passion for the game. He went on with it and got selected by ANFA, which took him to Hetauda. He played in Hetauda for three years straight, and along with other selected players, he came to Kathmandu, where he debuted from Sankata Boys Sports Club. Following all the skills taught by the coach, along with proper diet, discipline, and training, he gives his best performances on the field.
He describes the state of football in Nepal as being in a consecutive stage of improvement. “Looking at the situation of football now, and comparing it to when I started, it has improved a lot. Now, we can say that one can earn through football. There are more talented players coming than when we played back in our time, and also, now there are more opportunities for these young players. With a lot of clubs, and futsal around town and outside the valley, the enthusiastic players can really polish their skills,” he says.
Sudeep started playing professionally at the age of 19, starting his journey by getting selected by ANFA, and now he is playing with APF (Armed Police Force football club). He says, “Along these years, besides financial and managerial improvements, the style of play has also improved. The management, coach, and money aspects have positively improved.”
He has played in a lot of matches. Among them, he describes his Delhi’s Subroto Mukherjee Cup experience to be the best one. He says, “I can say that was my best match; though we were in the second position, everyone gave their best. Though being held in India, there was immense love and support from the audience.”
He explains how his family has always been supportive of his love for football. With a smile, he says, “I am here today because of the support I got from my family. However, in the initial days, my mom was against it, as football was affecting my studies, but my father and grandfather have always been encouraging and supportive towards me. My family hasn’t been restrictive towards my decision of playing football.”
So, what does it take to become a good player? Sudeep says, “Sports is all about physique, one must be physically fit to play. A good sportsperson should always maintain a good diet and healthy lifestyle. He/she should minimize their bad habits (such as smoking drinking) as it highly affects their health, which shows in their performance. I see a lot of young guys taking a smoke and playing their match, which is not something a sportsman should do. One must have deep sense of passion and coordinate with their team, respecting one another in the field, and these, along with hard work, results in a great game.”
Every individual in every field has an idol by whom they are deeply inspired. Same for Sudeep—having a deep love for football, he is very much inspired by players like Marcelo Vieira, Sergio Ramos, and Cristiano Ronaldo. With the World Cup fever going on, Sudeep is supporting England, from which he admires Kyle Walker, also a defense player like himself.
With a lot of passionate players going abroad, Sudeep too was influenced by the idea of playing in the international arena, but being the only son, he did not take that plan to action. He says, “Football is a very important part of my life. I am recognized because of it, and my parents too are very proud of me. I will play until I can, and I will even encourage my children to play in the future.”
Pointing out the current football controversy, he talks about how football fans are bashing one another, with both Messi and Ronaldo missing penalties. The performance from these renowned players caused conflict among fans, with a lot of trolls and memes going around social media. Sudeep says, “They are two of the best players in the world, and that’s why it was such a big thing. If it happened from a not so famous player, then it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But, fans should respect the players and not bash one another, because playing on the field in front of the world and bashing the player from behind the screen are very different things.”
Currently working in APF, Sudeep is training himself and playing football. His upcoming match is the Sahid Smarak League, for which he is prepping. For the young football players, he says, “Never stop playing; with hard work and dedication, one can reach the top. I see potential in these young players. They are very enthusiastic and energetic. With constant improvement, maybe Nepal can also reach the World Cup arena someday!”