The 18,000 strong crowd at the Dasrath stadium was reduced to silence. After conceding to Pakistan in the 13th minute, it looked like Nepal was bound to leave empty-handed despite starting the day with a chance to leapfrog into the semifinals with one game to spare.
But fifteen- year-old Bimal Gharti Magar had other things in mind. When a cross was fired from the right wing, Nepali players swarmed into the d-box and the Pakistani goalie could only flap at the ball. Bimal had already peeled away from the defenders in anticipation and fired a one-touch volley into the net to make Dasrath Rangasala erupt in joy and relief.
Running across the field chased by his fellow teammates, Magar looked equally jubilant. With this important goal, the teen became Nepal's youngest goalscorer in international football and an overnight celebrity.
The inpromptu celebrations at Rangasala had louder echoes on the social media, with Nepalis discussing Bimal's wonder strike late into the night. “I had been waiting for this moment for a long time. It is a dream come true for me to score for my team,” said Magar to the press after the match. “The massive number of audience at the home ground was very encouraging.”
For the U-16 player, the goal was not fluke but a result of years of hard work. Since joining All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) Academy in Butwal at the age of 13, Magar had been training tirelessly to improve his game and earn himself a place in the national squad. In the last three years, the boy from Nawalparasi had left his mark on the U-16 and U-14 matches he had played.
At the recent SAFF U-16 Championship’s group level matches, Magar scored six goals in three matches, including a hattrick against Bhutan and a brace against Pakistan. It was his goals that propelled Nepal into the finals before they lost to India.
“Bimal’s performance in the last few years have given hope to fans and coaches who were often left disappointed with Nepal's wayward finishing,” says Bal Gopal Maharjan, Nepal’s U-16 coach, who considers Magar's discipline as his biggest asset.
Although the youngster is far from the finished article, Maharjan is convinced his raw talents can be honed into that of a champion if he is nurtured properly.
The young football star is currently studying in grade 10 and has been living at the ANFA Academy’s hostel in Lalitpur for the last two years. A fan of Argentina and Barcelona player Lionel Messi, Magar says he wants to emulate the skills, success, and humility of his hero.
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