Bhandari looks to capitalise on playing Indian League

- Post Report, Kathmandu

May 25, 2019-

Sabitra Bhandari, the Nepali women’s football team forward, hogged limelight in Sethu FC’s title winning run to the Indian Women’s League on Wednesday. The 23-year-old along with her Nepali international winger Anita Basnet, who was also signed by Sethu, became the first Nepali women footballers to play professional league abroad. Bhandari struck 15 goals in the league including crucial two goals in their 3-1 win over Manipur Police SC in the final. Known for her dribbling skills, strength and pace, Bhandari has been dubbed as one of best strikers of current generation in the South Asian sub-continent. She has 28 international goals to her credit since making debut for Nepal during the 2014 SAFF Women's Championship. She is only behind Anu Lama (35 goals) in the list of all-time highest scorer for Nepal. Prajwal Oli of the Post had a brief chat with the star striker after her latest experience in Indian football. Excerpts.

How was your experience playing in India?

It was hugely enriching experience. As football is a team game, I learnt more about team spirit and team work playing with Sethu. The support that I got from teammates helped me quicky integrate into the team. It was a huge learning curve.

Can you differentiate between Nepali and Indian football culture?

I didn't notice any stark differences in footballing culture. But what separates our football from theirs is that Indian footballers get enough international exposure. In stark contrast to Nepal, the Indian national players get numerous opportunities to play abroad, be it friendlies or tournaments. Also the league scheduling in India is really scientific. The league runs for about a month where players get enough time to recuperate from exhaustions or even injuries. That is not the case in our country where league concludes in much shorter duration.

Are you satisfied with your performance with Sethu?

Of course, I am satisfied. But I am a bit disappointed with myself for not achieving my personal goal. I was bidding to become the top scorer in the league but could only manage 15 goals.

Would you think such exposures will benefit you in future?

It will help me for sure. Playing in different setting, culture and people will give different dimention to my game. Such opportunities doesn't come so often, especially for women footballers. On the personal level, it also helps me get a much-needed financial support.   

How were you connected to the Sethu FC?

The club had been watching me play the 2020 Olympic Football Qualifier, Hero Gold Cup and SAFF Championship. My performance during those tournaments drew their interest. They contacted our national team head coach [Hari Khadka] and [Nepal's FIFA referee Sudish Pandey] to strike the deal. I was paid INR 80,000 for featurinig in the three-week league.

 Any message to your fans at home?

Whatever I am today is because of the support and love I get from my fans. I hope they would keep supporting me which will inspire me to scale even greater heights in future. I will work even harder and try my best to perform better. As a team unit we aspire to one day end the title drought by clinching the SAFF Championship gold medal.

Published: 25-05-2019 07:54

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