All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) on Tuesday expressed high hopes from their teenaged footballers when the SAFF U-15 Championship kicks off at the ANFA Complex in Satdobato on Thursday. “Most of the members of the Nepali squad have been training at the ANFA Academy for nearly two years together,” said ANFA acting President Upendra Man Singh on Tuesday. “In addition to Academy players, we have also picked five best players through open selection conducted two weeks earlier at ANFA.”
Singh said nearly 300 young footballers—five players each from 44 district associations along with players from the Kathmandu—participated in the open selection. Five of the best among them were selected for the SAFF Championship. The remaining players for the 23-member squad were picked up from the 26 players, who have been training at the Academy. Sanoj Shrestha is the head coach of the Nepali team and Rakesh Shrestha the assistant coach. Manish Timalsina is the goalkeeping coach.
The league-cum-knockout tournament will see the participation of six teams. The Group ‘A’ consists of hosts Nepal, Bangladesh, and Maldives while India, Bhutan, and Pakistan are drawn in Group ‘B’. Winners and the runners-up from each of the two pools will advance to the semi-finals.
ANFA General secretary Indraman Tuladhar informed that Pakistan, Bhutan, Maldives and Bangladesh have already arrived for the tournament while India are scheduled to land in Kathmandu on Wednesday. The visiting teams will train at the Nepal APF Club’s ground in Halchowk and Madhyapur Youth Association ground in Sano Thimi. ANFA has received $ 140,000 (Rs 16.52 million) financial support from South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) to run the tournament. The ANFA has estimated the cost of the tournament at Rs 16.5 million.