Nepal secured historic win over India but why is a Nepal Police officer being feted?

Nawayug Shrestha, the lethal striker.
Nawayug Shrestha, the lethal striker.

Nepal made history Monday evening by winning gold in the South Asian Games men’s football category over host India and the Himalayan nation is literally mad with joy. After all, there has not lately been many reasons to rejoice for Nepalese people but plenty to suffer – first the devastating earthquakes of April and May 2015 and then more recently, over four month long blockade leading to even more suffering.

A lot of that angst was pacified yesterday at Indira Gandhi Stadium in Guwahati, the capital city of the state of Assam.

The victory is being looked at as the beginning of a new era in the Nepalese football world and interestingly enough, the name of the young man who made it all possible is ‘Nawayug’ which literally does mean ‘New Era’ in the Nepalese language.

Dark Kathmandu streets didn’t deter Nepalese citizens from taking to the capital city’s streets to shout euphoric slogans of victory.

However, as the players are being worshipped godlike for bringing home the champion’s trophy after a drought of 23 long years, it is not only the players though that are being feted for the proud moment.

SSP Sarbendra Khanal
SSP Sarbendra Khanal

Sarbendra Khanal, a senior officer of Nepal Police, is being given half the credit if not more for the collective joy the national team has brought to a country that otherwise has gone through so much of raw pain in 2015. The Metropolis Crime Division Chief, a Senior Superintendent of Police, was instrumental in exposing the underbelly of match-fixing by arresting five of Nepal’s former national team including its captain Sagar Thapa. A quick scan of social media reveals the mood of the Nepalese people living in the four corners of the world – that it was the culture of corruption that had so far robbed the country of sporting glory for over two decades.

Mr Khanal told local media that he has been receiving phone calls and text messages from America and England as well from his compatriots from across the Himalayan nation. ”I won and I felt very proud,” he told the media, and added that the victory has given a renewed ‘self-respect’ to the nation. The win has shown that nothing is impossible if ‘the players want it and put in the hard-work’, he said.

Nepal beat India 2-1 in the final match of the South Asian Games football final held at Guwahati’s Indira Gandhi Stadium.

Many believe the victory will help Nepalese people forget the unimaginable onslaught of Mother Nature in April 2015 when nearly 9,000 people lost their lives. Victims of the earthquake are still homeless up in mountains as the country’s government has failed to act in a timely and organised manner. Aid organisations have been a lot of fuss without much substance too, critics say. Added to these tragic state of affairs was the humanitarian crisis created by the dwindling supplies of daily essentials including medical supplies as India placed unofficial blockade on the landlocked nation.

Interestingly, the last time Nepal won the title was when the current head coach Raju Kaji Shakya captained the team in Dhaka in 1993.

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