Biraj Maharjan calls time on international careerHe wore the captain's armband for the first time during Trivandrum SAFF Championship in December 2015 against India replacing Anil Gurung. He led the team as captain for 18 matches.
Biraj Maharjan, the most accomplished captain of the Nepali national football team, pulled the curtains down on his 13-year long glittering international career with his last appearance against Bangladesh in the home team’s 2-1 title celebration of Three Nations Cup at the Dasharath Stadium, Tripureshwor on Monday.
The victory made the defender's final appearance in the national colour a moment to celebrate. "What could have been a better farewell to me than winning a trophy at the home soil," said the 31-year old, who will still give continuity to club football.
Maharjan had been struggling to get playing time of late and came as a 90th minute substitute for Tridev Gurung and played in the six minutes stoppage. He also wore the national captain’s armband. Once the final whistle was blown, he was carried by his teammates and paraded around the stadium.
He was applauded by roaring home supporters as Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli presented him with a blazer at his farewell.
"It is an emotional day for me and a very tough decision to make. But every player has to go through this day in their career," said Maharjan. “I have never imagined that I would achieve this height when I started the game. I thank my supporters, teammates and coaches.”
Captain Kiran Limbu, who succeeded Maharjan, said that the team have fulfilled their promise of a happy farewell. “Having spent 13-years of playing career with him, I had promised him a trophy on his farewell before the tournament began. And we did it,” he said.
Maharjhan, who debuted for the national team at 18 against Pakistan in 2008, achieved what none of his predecessors did. He led the national team to three titles in 2016 including the U-23 men's football gold in South Asian Games (SAG) in February, AFC Solidarity Cup in September and Bangabandu Gold Cup in January. The SAG was an age group event but the other two held in the same year were official international.
With the Bangabandhu cup Nepal had ended their 23-year international trophy drought.
The left back started playing football while he was a child and was selected for the second batch of football academy run by the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) as a U-12 player. Since then, he never had to look back. He represented Nepal in various age group international tournaments.
After making his debut against Pakistan in an international friendly, he won 73 caps. Maharjan, one of the most prolific left backs the country has ever produced, has scored one international goal against Kyrgyzstan during the AFC Challenge Cup in March 2009.
He wore the captain's armband for the first time during Trivandrum SAFF Championship in December 2015 against India replacing Anil Gurung. He led the team as captain for 18 matches.
Maharjan had been struggling for a regular place in the national fold since 2019. Leaving aside the final of the Three Nations Cup, his last international appearance came at a friendly match against Malaysia in June 2019.
He also claimed top tier domestic league—the Martyrs Memorial 'A' Division League—with Three Star Club, Manang Marshyangdi Club and Machhindra Club. He led Machhindra to the league title in the last season.