The All Nepal Football Association's annual school-level tournament kicked off with little media attention this week. For the lads the national tourney is just one of many they are eligible to play in but for many in the girl's teams, this event will be the height of their experience with the 'beautiful' game.
Players aged 14-19 from 22 different districts played in the weeklong ANFA-Mayos Girls School Level Tournament at the ANFA grounds in Satdobato. Each team arrived after triumphing in a district-wide selection process and was comprised of students from different schools within each district.
In Wednesday's semi-finals, a goal from Morang's Pramila Rai in the 28th minute stood up against Makwanpur and Morang sailed through to the final. The other semi-final however, was a tough match between Panchthar and Bara. After Panchthar's Deepa Thapa put her team ahead in the first half, Bara evened when striker Mina Ghale scored an easy goal in the second half. The game ended in a draw, even after three minutes extra time, and the score did not change after two seven-minute extra halves. A round of penalty kicks finally revealed a winner as Bara notched four goals to Panchthar's three.
For many girls like 19-year-old Pramila Rai of Shrijate High School in Morang, the tournament was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Pramila, known as Laure dai to her teammates, has been playing as a defender for the last four years. "Besides playing the game (the tournament) also gave us a chance to interact with girls our age from across the country," she said.
For others like Bhagimaya Mangmo, 16, of Shri Bishnu High School in Chamtharpu, Pancthar and captain of the district team, playing on regulation fields was a rare treat. "We don't even have a proper football field and have to walk two hours to the district headquarters just to have a real game," she complained. According to Srijana Bartuala, coach and manager of the Makwanpur team, "we have ample funds and kits are provided by ANFA because it's (ANFA President) Ganesh Thapa's district."
The final game pitting Morang against Bara will be played at 10AM on Friday at the ANFA grounds.