Sankhamul look to defend futsal crownThe defending champions start their ‘A’ Division Futsal League campaign against Futsal 5 Dharan on September 19.
Holders Sankhamul Futsal will set an ambition of defending their crown when they vie in the 'A' Division National Futsal League set to take place from September 18 to October 8 in Pokhara.
The Kathmandu-based team are the most successful futsal team in the country and also the winners of the Futsal League organised five years ago by a private company and the National Futsal League organised by the football governing body All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) in 2017.
Sankhamul, the winners of more than two-dozen titles at the local and national level in past years, had finished runners-up in the Bagmati Qualifiers for the National League. They had lost 8-2 against Dhuku Futsal in the Qualifiers final. But they have got enough preparation time for the finals as the tournament was postponed twice owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Naresh Awale, one of the directors of Sankhamul, is aware of the importance of the event, which is recognised by the football governing body. "We are under regular training these days and we tried to keep every player fit even during the lockdown by strictly following our training plan virtually," said Awale. "We won many tournaments in the past including two national leagues. The tournament's hype and competition between the teams is at its peak. Our previous titles and glory will go in vain if we fail to lift the trophy this time," said Awale.
Sankhamul Futsal Pvt Ltd played as Last Minute Futsal for two years before they were formally launched in 2015. They have competed in more than 40 local level futsal competitions and have won at least 30 titles.
Recalling the inception of Sankhamul Futsal, Awale said: "During 2013/14 we used to play futsal in Thamel and named the team Last Minute Futsal after we formed a team during the last moments to play a local level inter-futsal tournament. Later we were able to make a strong team and also won some trophies. We felt the need to have our own court after tournaments began in home and away format. Thus we decided to start Sankhamul Futsal so that our players can have regular training and turn our hobby into profession," Awale shared.
Futsal was introduced in Nepal around a decade ago and is mostly played indoors on artificial turf. But internationally, futsal is played either on a parquet floor or a mat. Not a single court in Nepal meets the full requirements of international futsal.
"It took a long time for us to know that the game we have been playing as futsal on artificial turf was in fact mini football. Now that we have formed national-level teams, we need a real futsal court for training. We are looking for space in Chyasal," Awale said, adding that they were currently training at Yala Futsal in Lalitpur instead of their own court at Sankhamul that has artificial turf.
Sankhamul coach Prakash Pariyar is wary about the challenge of playing at the international standard facility for the first time. "There are a lot of expectations in the team as we have won numerous trophies in the past. But we will be playing following all international guidelines on standard infrastructure. It will be a new experience for us as well," said Pariyar.
The 17-member Sankhamul is studded with four members — Aruj Singh, Mani Lama, Anish Shrestha and Sushan Shrestha — of the Nepali national futsal team that played AFC Asian Futsal Championship Qualifiers in 2019.
Sankhamul will start their campaign taking on Futsal 5 Dharan in their opening match on September 19.
The 10 teams vying in the tournament finals will play in the round-robin format. The teams finishing in the top four positions will play qualifiers and eliminator matches for a place in the final.
The winners of the tournament will take home a purse of Rs1 million while the runners-up will get half the amount. The best goalkeeper, fixo (defender), pivot (forward), emerging player and best coach of the tournament will receive Rs25,000 each.
All matches of the finals will be telecast from Kantipur Television and its digital platform. Turnpike Events Private Limited holds the marketing promotion and management responsibility for the tournament.