Kathmandu: The Imperial Futsal at Kaushaltar in Bhaktapur had a characteristically energetic atmosphere on Friday, September 10. A squad of footballers was running, jumping and kicking the ball about—all of them practicing hard as if they were on a mission. The players, however, were not some local boys warming up for a regular futsal match. They had come here all the way from Bajura, in far-western Nepal, representing Raniban Sports Club. And yes, they indeed had a mission to accomplish: they were soon going to play the C-division qualifier, ongoing at the ANFA complex, in Satdobato. The Raniban Sports Club will play its first game on September 22.
Bajura is a rural district which regularly faces food crises and where people still die of poverty. It is perhaps the first time in the history of Nepali football that a club from such a far-flung and impoverished place has come to the capital to play the beautiful game.
It was not an easy journey for the club. To reach where they are now, they had to overcome many hardships that other football clubs competing alongside them probably didn’t have to go through.
“It was not an easy thing to be a footballer back then,” Rokaya recalls. “Nobody used to like football when we began playing it. There were no grounds, no shoes, and no family support.”
Rokaya and his team members played shoeless through the entirety of their footballing career. Only when they strung together a team and competed at the sixth National Game in Dhangadi, in 2012, did they manage to own a football shoe; even so, only half of them could manage the shoe. Four years later, during the seventh National Game, in Biratnagar, the whole squad had a football shoe.
Rokaya doesn’t have a word to express the pain they had while playing without proper kits.
He also had a dispute with his family who questioned his decision to devote his time to football. His elder brother, the only breadwinner in the family, didn’t talk to him for a long period. Many of Rokaya’s teammates went through similar problems. The game was considered a totally useless activity, Rokaya recalls, and those involved in it were asked to focus on other sectors where they could make good money. That hatred towards football in Rokaya’s hometown has slightly decreased now.
Nobody supported the club back then, says Rokaya, no government, businesspersons, political leaders, or social organizations. Rokay
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