Nepal is a country not usually known for exciting attacking football – with the national team currently ranked in 185th place on FIFA’s ranking list of 209 nations. However, the team from Outlook Trading and Consulting are using the fourth edition of the Workers Cup to redefine their footballing identity in Qatar.
Outlook, who were runners up in the same tournament 12 months ago, are the only all-Nepalese side in the 2016 edition of the tournament – and won all three of their Group B matches en route to the knockout phase. In doing so, they have prevailed over strong sides such as 2015 winners MIDMAC Contracting Co (1-0) and Medgulf Construction Co (2-1).
Although they may not have the same perceived footballing pedigree as some of their Nigerian and Ghanaian counterparts, they have more than made up for it in what has become their trademark short-passing style – honed through the hard work of their coach on the drawing board, and the dedication of the players on the training field.
“We are thrilled that we have a platform in the Workers Cup to compete successfully against fellow workers from Nigeria, Ghana and Egypt who have all achieved a lot in football, unlike Nepal,” Outlook coach Kamal Bahadur told www.sc.qa on the sidelines of one of their regular late evening training sessions.
“Our team waits for this competition as it is through our on-field performances that we announce to other communities in Qatar that our nation can compete with anyone in football,” said Bahadur, a former goalkeeper for Eastern Region in the Nepali league.
The 38-year-old, who came to Qatar in 2005, is a security officer at a ministry in Qatar and has been coaching the Outlook team on a voluntary basis for the past two years.
An astute observer of the game, and keen student of the coaching world, Bahadur explained the rationale behind adopting a possession-based style, based on short passing – and revealed he models his approach on that of one of the game’s most famous Asian sides.
“I have been a fan of the Japan national team,” he said. “Their players are physically similar to us and I watch them play on television. I can especially remember them in the AFC Asian Cup and the FIFA World Cup. It was wonderful to see their Under-23 side win the AFC Under-23 Championship here in Doha in January.”
He continued: “I was at the stadium to watch the final against South Korea and they trailed 2-0 in the first half. But the introduction of the promising youngster Takuma Asano [who has three caps for the Samurai Blue] improved their finishing, though they were brilliant in midfield right through.
“I always set up my boys in small triangles so that they can interchange passes and move forward at pace like the Japanese.”
Outlook’s magical formula in this year’s Workers Cup revolves around Suren Gurung and Bhakta Bhandari, two central midfielders who, in Bahadur’s words, are “pass masters” with a style similar to that of Barcelona and Spain legends Xavi and Andrés Iniesta.
Meanwhile, up front they have the towering presence of the ponytailed Amir Sreshta, who has scored seven goals in three games, including five in the opening 9-0 win against DicoTech Qatar.
A die-hard Cristiano Ronaldo fan, Sreshta is far removed from being an individualist. “I am lucky to have my strike partner Arjun Subba, Suren and Bhakta around me,” he said. “The coach wants us all to play close to each other so that we can thread passes through the rival defence. We play like the Japan national team or Barcelona in European club football,” said Sreshta, who came to Qatar eight months ago and is an office assistant in his day job.
Meanwhile Bhandari, who is also an integral part of the team, says there will be no pressure on him during the knockout phase of the tournament.
“We have better vision and teamwork than other teams,” he said with a smile. “The coach wants us to play close to each other and we find each other through short passes. We were able to control the midfield against MIDMAC and Medgulf, both of whom are strong teams with most players from Ghana and Nigeria, countries which have consistently produced top quality international players.”
At a time where Leicester City are capturing the world’s imagination with their winning run in the English game, neutrals following the 2016 Workers Cup will also be likely to fall in love with this technically-gifted team from sporting underdog Nepal. (SC.qa)
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