Hosts Qatar will face Nepal in their first match of the Asian Rugby Sevens Trophy at the Aspire Warm-up Track and Rugby Stadium tomorrow.
This is the third time that the team from the Himalayan country will make a trip abroad for an international tournament.
Talk to Gopal Chhetri and the team manager gets all animated about how rugby took off in his country.
“Nepal has seen rugby on and off,” Chhetri says on the sidelines of the pre-event press conference at Movenpick Hotel Al Aziziyah in Doha.
“Personally, I started in 2005. I had a friend from Scotland who had come to Nepal. He asked me once if I played any sport. I used to have a health club then and I told him that I am into bodybuilding, but nothing beyond that.
“He asked me if I had heard of rugby. I had not. I told him so. He took out this ball, which had a different shape to the balls we had seen till then. Intrigued, I asked him to show me how to play. We went to a nearby playground, we were three of us. That is how it started.”
Soon, Chhetri was joined by a few people from the British Embassy in Nepal. “They asked me if I knew how to play, and I was candid about it. I told them that I was still learning. They helped too,” he says.
“They got transferred and went back. The sport saw a decline in the next few years. Then came a time that one Mr. Chetan Raj Giri, who is the general secretary of Nepal Rugby Association, got in touch and asked me whether I knew how to play the game. I told him that I am not an expert but will try my best to teach the game,” he says.
In 2014, the General Council of Asia Rugby voted for Nepal to be awarded associate membership at its meeting in Bangkok.
The membership allowed Nepal to play in international tournaments.
“We used to play at a small club level till then. But we never went abroad to international tournaments. It is only in the last 2-3 years that we went outside Nepal. We have gone to India twice now to play the Development Sevens. Our overall position in the standings was not good, but at a developmental stage that we are in, it was a good experience,” Chhetri says.
According to Chhetri, there are 100 odd rugby players in Nepal now, and many of them are from the Army.
In December 2016, the first edition of National Rugby Inter-club Men’s and Women’s Tournament was hosted in Kathmandu, with the Nepal Army Club picking up the men’s title and Gorkhali Rugby Club the women’s.
“The Army players, who are very good, haven’t been able to join us for this event due to a festival that the Army organises at this time of the year,” Chhetri informs.
“The players that have come to Doha have been playing for the last 3-4 years. Most of the players in the team are students. A few of the students who have come from abroad also join us during their free time. Some of them hope to make a career out of playing rugby but let’s see how that goes,” he says.
The team had a month-long camp in Kathmandu before travelling to Qatar. Apart from Qatar and Nepal, Pool B also has the Philippines.
Asked about their expectation from the tournament, Chhetri says, “We are representing our nation and we want to do our best. There should be no lack of efforts, the rest is up to God. Let us see what happens.”
The 12-member team is led by skipper Nabin Giri, while Krishna Chhetri is the vice-captain. Birat Shrestha, Sriram Shrestha, Prem Bahadur Koirala, Biratjung Aidee, Nirmal Lama, Sunil Malla Thakuri, Gajendra Bahadur Rana, Ashok Shahi, Bikram Puri and Sanish Maharjan complete the team, which is coached by Hari Tamang.
LEAVE A COMMENT Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*
Real Madrid beat Liverpool to win Champions League for 14th time
Swiatek racks up 31st straight win
Di Giannantonio snatches Italian Grand Prix pole
Nelly Korda to return to action at US Women’s Open
Debutants Gujarat face Rajasthan’s red hot Buttler in final
Hindley on brink of glory after snatching lead from Carapaz
No. 1 Scheffler keeps share of PGA Colonial lead
Injured Cornet blasts ‘handful of idiots’ after French Open boos
China’s Zheng ‘so excited’ for Swiatek clash at French Open