Nepal football coach in the spotlight, again

National men’s football team’s coach Abdullah Almutairi, who has had a brush with controversy on more than one occasion since taking charge, appears to have been controlling the squad with an iron fist.

On Saturday, Almutairi briefed the media at an interaction, with his usual swag for which he is known, with players after a training session at Dasharath Stadium.

Before the press briefing, the Kuwaiti introduced the players to the media and urged journalists not to ask questions related to postponed Nepal Super League, club coaches and upcoming election of the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA). He also advised the media to inquire the players only about the national team’s preparations for the third and final round Qualifiers of AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers.

Nepal are drawn along with the hosts Kuwait, Jordan and Indonesia in Group ‘A’ for the Qualifiers to be played in the single round robin format from June 8 to 14. The winners of all six groups and the five best runners-up will qualify for the finals set to take place in June and July next year in China.

Almutairi, at a separate press conference on Friday, had ruled out Nepal’s chances for qualification into the final rounds of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup saying they were drawn in a tough group. “In reality, we cannot qualify for the Asian Cup because the opponents are much stronger than us. When we cannot even win the SAFF Cup, we cannot dream of the Asian Cup and World Cup,” said the Kuwaiti coach, who has often been dragged. into controversy — three times for announcing his resignation via social media and also accusing senior ANFA officials of foul play against him.

Four players were called for the first briefing and were given 10 minutes each. But the Kuwaiti, who was sitting in the last row along with reporters, interrupted after six minutes saying that the time was over.

Sujal Shrestha was talking to the media when the coach interrupted. The other three attendees — Bishal Rai, Bimal Gharti Magar and Manish Dangi — were mere spectators. This is not the first time Almutairi has barred players from speaking to the media.

Shrestha was more optimistic than the coach.

“I also read his statement. But all players and the coach have the same ambition — to give out their best and make the country proud. Regardless of what the coach said, the ultimate ambition is to qualify for the China finals,” said Shrestha .

“We are in the group of death. We have lost to Kuwait and Jordan in the past… but we are not concerned with the past results. We will focus on the upcoming games.”

Nawayug Shrestha, who recently marked his comeback from injury, Rohit Chand, Bishal Shrestha and Ananta Tamang attended the second briefing.

Chand echoed his coach.

“It is really difficult to qualify for the finals. But we will give our best and hope for good outcomes.”

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