German coach spurs young footballers

- Ayush Khadka
German coach spurs young footballers

Jan 29, 2011-

There has been an air of optimism at the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) lately. The U-12 to U-16 teams are eager to make each day at the training centre count. The new-found enthusiasm among the boys has surprised even their usual trainers, who otherwise have much to say about their lack of discipline.

The reason behind their changed attitude is the introduction of coach Josef Ruckgaber and his son Kai from Germany. The Germans along with two Nepali coaches—Chet Narayan Shrestha and Hari Om Shrestha—train the boys at the St. Xavier’s Godavari School for two hours every day.

Sporting new outfits and kicking around branded balls, all presented by the German government at the initiation of Ruckgaber senior, the boys, numbering about 60, look thrilled to be under the guidance of the Germans. “Some are really talented,” says the father in his broken English. “They need some technical knowledge but all of them are passionate about learning.”

How the Ruckgabers landed in Kathmandu is a story in itself. Ruckgaber, 57, was still a college student in Stuttgart when he heard about Nepal in 1975 from a friend, Purushottam Lal Shrestha, who was pursuing his higher studies in the same university as him.

Shrestha returned to Nepal after completing his studies but their friendship continued. In every Christmas greeting that Shrestha sent for the last 30 years or so, he always requested him to visit the country, but his German friend could never get away from his work at the Deutsche Telekom and his family. In every reply he wrote he said he would come the following year but would not come empty handed and insisted on doing something for the youth here.

Years became decades but Josef made the same promise. After 35 years of procrastinating, Josef along with his son Kai finally landed in Kathmandu in January and as promised did not come empty handed. Being a licensed football coach, he had already corresponded with ANFA about his interest to volunteer to train the youngsters of the country during his stay here. He also raised some money to donate sporting kits to his would-be students.

The first thing that he did in Kathmandu was visit the German Embassy with his friend Shrestha to request for financial support.”The Embassy was reluctant at first but Shrestha and I tried a lot to convince them,” said Josef. Finally convinced, the Embassy donated football equipment worth Rs. 328, 715 to the junior team of the ANFA.

“Nepalis, like the Germans, have a great passion for football and we thought this was the best way to help the association,” said Heening Hansen, first secretary deputy head of the German Embassy while donating the equipment to the ANFA. “We hope to extend more support more in the future because the passion for the game in the country is high and it should be rewarded.”

This is not the first time Germans have been involved in Nepali football, though. The involvement of the Germans in the sport dates back to 1982 when Rudy Gutendorf led the team in the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi. He was succeeded by fellow German John Figy.

Next in the list were Heinze John Michelle, Rain Heart Fabiz, Frank Spitler, Holger Oberman and Tohams Flath. All of them had a brief stint with the national team from 1982 - 2008.

The recent support to the ANFA came as a surprise. What more could it have wanted? First they got the service of Ruckgaber—a licensed coach with an experience of coaching local youth and senior teams for 18 years in his homeland—for free and later a donation of footballs, jerseys, shorts, cones, boots, nets, pumps and, most importantly, a commitment of further help.

ANFA President Ganesh Thapa was thrilled to get the aid they had never hoped for especially from the German government, which has a bitter experience of working for sports development in Nepal after the alleged involvement of German coach Gunter Lange in Rajendra Bhandari’s doping case in 10th South Asian Games in Colombo in 2008.

Ruckgaber knows that this episode had made it difficult for him to convince the German Embassy for the donation but he is happy with the way things have panned out for Nepali football. Besides, initiating help from the German government, Ruckgaber on Monday donated 18 footballs he had brought from Germany. “We have learned a lot from him and we are happy to be under him. Our technical knowledge of the game has increased ten-fold and we can do much better if coaches like him come to Nepal once in a while,” said U-16 captain Umesh Thapa.

Like all good things must come to an end, the Ruckgabers will be heading home on February. 17 but hope to come back for a possibly longer stay next year. “I will present a copy of my work to the German government back home so that they can give me more support to help the growth of football in Nepal,” Ruckgaber senior said.


Published: 29-01-2011 08:59

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