Sports

Bhujel fights her way to the top

- PRAJWAL OLI, Biratnagar

Mar 18, 2019-

National team defender Hira Kumari Bhujel has proved dedication and hard work ultimately pays off, working her way to the national women’s football team despite her humble background.

The 23-year-old, a key member of Nepali women’s team, started toying with ‘football’ since she was 14. Like most other kids in the village she used to kick the socks-made-ball. The next year she was in the district team of Dhanusha where she donned the boots for the first time.

The same year she was selected to represent Central Region in the sixth National Games held in Dhangadhi in 2012. She broke into the national team making debut for Nepal during the 2016 South Asian Games in India. Ever since she has been an integral part of the national team. She has 21 international caps with one goal to her credit so far.

“My neighbours and even some of the family members had negative approach to women playing football. For them it was not the women’s game,” recalls Bhujel who hails for remote Bhorle village in Udaypur. “Since I was a child sports fascinated me the most and football was the best of all. We even had a girls’ team in our village. We mostly played with balls made of socks,” says Bhujel who got the feel of a proper football for the first time at the Shree Saraswati High School in Bhorle.

At the time, a few girls used to play football at nearby Katari Bazar and she was invited by the girls from Katari to play with them. In 2011, she went to Janakpur with girls from Katari to play district-level game, her first real taste of competitive football.

Ever since she has never looked back. The following year she was invited to play Central Regional Qualifier from Dhanusha and was selected for the Sixth National Games. In 2013, she was included in the Central Region team to play Women’s League in Ilam. It was the tournament which enabled her to draw attention from the women’s football team of Nepal Armed Police Force Club. She credits local coaches Roshan Lama, Jay Lama and Kalyan Khadka for shaping her career as a footballer.

In 2012, she was called by Nepal APF Club to join the departmental team but she did not get a contract for the first three months. “I was not discouraged for not getting the contract initially as I kept on working hard. Senior players in APF including Laxmi Paudel and Rupa Rana helped me a lot in those difficult moments. I could not have managed to survive in Kathmandu without their support and care,” recalls Bhujel.

After three months, she was offered a monthly allowance of Rs 5,000 but it was raised to Rs 7,500 two months later. Bhujel was then offered a permanent job of APF constable in February 2016. She also marked her international debut the same year during the 2016 SAG where Nepal finished runners-up to India.

“The APF job brought a big change in my life. It gave a great confidence and football has become given my financial security,” said Bhujel who was happy to receive Rs 250,000 reward from All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) and National Sports Council (NSC) for winning the silver medal in 2016.

Her struggles in pursuit of football makes all the more poignant considering she never felt the love of father or mother. Her mother eloped with another man when she was just two years old while his father passed while working in Saudi Arabia. She was just five then. She was the youngest of the five siblings and was raised by her grandmother.

“I always feel discomfort whenever the topic of father of mother comes up,” says Bhujel. “I am in contact with my mother who lives at Birendra Bazaar in Udaypur and we talk over the phone sometimes. I have no grudges against her.” Football has not only given her a national identity but also a job in the Nepal Armed Police Force (APF) Club.

The national team left-back is currently in a mission to hand Nepal the first ever international silverware as her team has made it to the semi-finals of the SAFF Women’s Championship in Biratnagar. “Those who looked at me with derision in the past for adopting football are now backing me up,” says Bhujel. “Knowing that I have become a symbol of a successful girl for so many others is really satisfying feeling.”

National team coach Hari Khadka says: “She is a reliable defender and it is difficult to get a player like her. She has all the qualities required for a defender.” Khadka believes Bhujel has a great speed and can disrupt any opponent with her bold approach.

Published: 18-03-2019 10:42

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