Football not foreign to superstar Rajesh Hamal

Kathmandu, 26 Nov 2009 - Popular actor Rajesh Hamal expressed confidence that Nepali football team would perform well in the SAFF Championship. Bidding farewell to the players before they left for the regional event scheduled for December 4-14 in Bangladesh, he also shared his sports experience with myepublica.

A few days before the 1998 World Cup began, Hamal, in a TV program, was asked which country he thought would win the World Cup. “France is progressing a lot in football and also being the hosts may win the World Cup,” replied Hamal. His words became prophetic. And France won the World Cup.

“Any game is influenced a lot by the players´ spirit. This sentiment was instrumental in France´s victories in World Cup and European Championship,” he said.

Hamal developed a fascination for football during his schooldays in Europe, where he traveled along with his diplomat father. He spent a long time in Russia and then moved to West Germany and the US. Though, it was in Russia where he became an avid viewer of FC Dynamo.
Hamal was in Russia when Pele played World Cup for Brazil in 1970, which he watched live on TV.

He was in West Germany during the 1972 Munich Olympics when the terror strike took place against the Israeli players. While in Moscow, Hamal didn´t miss the opportunity to watch some European League matches in the stadium. But he didn´t find the same craze for football in the US, where baseball was more popular.

He watched the 1986 world cup graced by Argentine player Maradona on television in Kathmandu. Nepali youths then were blind supporters of Maradona, recalls Hamal. “Nepali youths took Maradona as their idol maybe because his height resembled that of the Nepali people,” opined Hamal.

He used to play a lot of ice hockey when he was in Russia. After a long time when he went to Simla in India, the snow covered landscape reminded him of his childhood and he opted for skiing. He felt that skiing was like cycling -- one never forgets it once learnt.

When asked how much he played football during his youth days, Hamal countered, “Is there anyone who hasn´t played football while studying in school and college?” adding, “I played in my country and abroad but I didn´t think of pursuing it as a career.”

Hamal never misses to play football matches that are organized occasionally for charity. He put up an impressive show in a match held few weeks ago at the Dasharath Stadium in which celebrities played against journalists. After the match, spectators surrounded him for almost half an hour. He said that though he watched all the matches played by the Nepali team under the captainship of Raju Shakya, he hasn´t been able to watch any of the matches recently.

Claiming that he has good ties with the popular player of his time Ganesh Thapa, he recalled, “We have stood in the same stage together.”

He suggested that India´s development in sports might be worth considering for Nepal. “It takes a long time to develop the standard of football but it doesn´t take much time for it to fall,” he said.

Hamal said that he hasn´t played football since a long time while he acted for the advertisements of Captain Soap and in the film ´Chatyang´.

Hamal who is eagerly waiting for the World Cup which will be held next year in South Africa claimed, “Nepali football team will spread the message of national unity in Bangladesh at a time when the nation is in political imbroglio,” adding, “ If we play with the spirit that we can win, we will definitely come up with good results in Bangladesh.”

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