Coach Almutairi denies expelling ten playersThe Kuwaiti accuses footballers of leaving without prior approval and announces to leave them out of Qualifiers.
Nepal head coach Abdullah Almutairi on Sunday dismissed the claims that he instructed ten footballers to leave the closed camp and asserted they had left the national team “without prior approval”.
The national team has plunged into a deep crisis a month ahead of their 2023 AFC Asian Cup Group ‘A’ Qualifiers after the first choice footballers departed the camp saying the coach instructed them to go home.
The agitating ten footballers, in a joint press meet on Thursday, had claimed they had left the camp after coach Almutairi ordered them to leave following a dispute over accommodation facilities.
The players had urged the coach and the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) officials to place them at a hotel instead of ANFA hostel citing lack of proper facilities. But the row erupted on Sunday—just days after the coach precluded the players from speaking to the media in a controlled press briefing—after the coach responded to their request to arrange a hotel “aggressively” and expelled caretaker captain Rohit Chand from the squad for speaking on behalf of the players.
The players in exile have said the coach then forced nine others out for supporting Chand. They have also accused the coach of trying to control them off the field and torturing them mentally. The closed camp began on Monday.
Coach Almutairi, in a letter addressed to ANFA General Secretary Indraman Tuladhar, has termed the players’ action as “unilateral” which he says has “hurt” him.
“Please understand that the unilateral action of players has hurt me deeply because I have always had the best interest of Nepal national football in my heart,” the coach writes in the letter.
The coach has tagged the players’ protest as the “impulse of the young blood that has led to an uncomfortable situation” and has said he forgives the players for their “slanderous remarks” against him. The Kuwaiti also appeals to the country’s football governing body not to “punish them for their mistakes”.
ANFA vice-presidents Pankaj Bikram Nembang, Krishna Bahadur Thapa and Bir Bahadur Khadka, and executive committee member, Dawa Lama, have urged the top football body to hold an executive committee meeting and address the issue as immediately as possible.
ANFA president Karma Tsering Sherpa has also assured that the problems would be resolved.
But the matter has worsened.
The so-called “father figure”, Almutairi, instead of heeding calls for resolution, called up 17 new players to the national team camp on Friday with an aim to replace the agitating players.
In the letter, Almutairi has also announced that he has decided to leave out the agitating players from the Qualifiers, scheduled to be played from June 8-14 in Kuwait.
“As a coach and chief selector of the National football team, I have both authority and responsibility to build a team,” says Almutairi. “It is within my responsibility to choose the best possible combination for the Nepal national team. And for that I have decided to exclude the names of players (from the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers), who have left the national team without prior approval, which I believe is in the best interest of the Nepal national team and its performance.”
And the coach—who has readily admitted Nepal’s failure in Kuwait before even kicking off the third and final round of the qualifying campaign when he publicly announced that Nepal’s hopes of qualification to China finals is just a mere dream—is ready to be accountable for team performance.
“I would also like to reiterate that I take full responsibility for the performance of the Nepal national team in the Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers,” the coach says.
“I hope you understand my predicament and help me perform my duties to the best abilities which are always for the betterment of the Nepali national football team.”
Almutairi, who has announced his resignation as coach three times through social media but somehow has managed to stick to the Nepal job extending the contract until December 2023, also says he wishes to continue to coach the national team.
“I strongly believe that I have made significant progress in the Nepal national football team which I want to continue,” says the coach.
The players have demanded that the ANFA open an inquiry into Almutiari’s behaviour, alleging him of imposing “dictatorship” in the camp and punish the guilty.
But ANFA has neither made any formal statement regarding the players-coach tension nor has started a probe into the incident.