With the kick-off of Euro 2020 and Copa America 2021, there is now a veritable football fiesta. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the football governing body of Europe has allowed a certain percent of the seats in the stadium to be filled with spectators while the South American football federation is holding all games behind closed doors. These covid-related measures seem to have done nothing to dampen the spirit of Nepali football fans though. ApEx talked to 10 individuals about their most memorable football memories and incidents.
Bharat Kumar Bhattarai, 71
I started following football after 1990. We used to listen to commentary on FM radio. But lucky me, I got to watch the 1994 World Cup on television. Although Bulgaria knocked out my team Germany in the quarterfinals, I enjoyed the final between Brazil and Italy.
I love the attacking football Germans play and hope they will win the Euro this time. The team had an embarrassing run at the 2018 World Cup despite being the defending champions. Because of my age, late-night match timings don’t feel comfortable, yet I follow the tournament whenever I can. Also, I wish for speedy recovery of Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen who collapsed from cardiac arrest during a game a few days ago.
Krishna Bahadur Karki, 65
An unpopular opinion—I support no team and I enjoy every clash. Enjoying every bit of football is only possible when you don’t expect ‘extra’ from the teams. Only a few people enjoy the game this way.
How can I forget the infamous headbutt from Zinedine Zidane on Marco Materazzi during the final of World Cup 2006! Zidane shouldn’t have returned to the team after announcing his retirement. He single-handedly carried the team to the final, but then the headbutt marked a bitter end to his extraordinary career.
Dinesh Dhungel, 63
I have watched only a few highlights of the Euro Cup this time but I have many fond memories of watching World Cups with my friends. Back when we were young, we used to stay up all night, drinking beer and cheering for our favorite teams. I’ve always enjoyed games with teams from England, Italy, Germany, and Argentina. I was the biggest fan of Diego Maradona and followed most of his games. Now I feel the same way about Messi.
Our friends never bet on football games. No, that was reserved for when we played with each other.
We didn’t have football equipment when we were kids so we’d improvise. The place where Hotel Narayani stands today used to be a large ground where anyone could get in. And that’s where we played most of our games. The St. Mary’s School grounds used to allow us to play there too sometimes. It was never really serious, just fun with friends, and now when I think about it, it gave me a reason to exercise.
Ramji P Koirala, 59
The Falkland Wars in 1982 was a hot topic in Kathmandu and it was the first time I heard of Argentina—the name fascinated me. Then there came the 1986 World Cup, which we Nepalis got the chance to watch on NTV. I was excited to watch the Argentine national team for the first time. I still remember Maradona’s madness and infamous hand-goal during the breathtaking final against West Germany. I was in instant love with the Argentine football team.
I am always updated about football but I can’t watch games late at night. Old age sucks, you know, haha! Football teaches us a lot about teamwork, passion, and love. I love this beautiful game and hope to see Nepal on the world stage soon.
Atmaji Pant, 56
I’ve been watching football since 1990. I made some of my favorite memories while watching the World Cup. I remember the one time I used to go to my friend’s house almost every day for a month so we could watch the games together. We positioned his TV diagonally to the chairs, so we had to tilt our heads and look to the side to get an unobstructed view. Sitting in that position for such a long time gave me the worst neck cramp, but I still kept watching.
We won’t be going to each other’s houses this year to watch the Euro Cup or Copa America but I’ll still be watching both the tournaments. I love Belgium and hope they win the Euro. Holland are pretty strong contenders too.
Kamala Neupane, 55
I didn’t have deep knowledge of football, even now I don’t, but it has given me memories of a lifetime. My brothers were Brazil supporters, so I also used to cheer for Brazil. Our neighbor had a television set and all of us used to watch together. Sometimes, we recall those moments with friends and they still give me goosebumps. Nostalgia!
My son passionately follows football and I give him company once in a blue moon, otherwise, I am not much into it these days.
Phanindra Ghimire, 53
The 1998 World Cup final, Brazil vs France, was my first ever football-watching experience. Despite France’s victory, I became a fan of the fiery Brazilian team. Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Cafu, Roberto Carlos are gems of football! The next World Cup in 2002 and my team lifted the trophy. I will never forget the beautiful moment when I chanted ‘Brazil! Brazil!’—lifting my two-year-old son in the air.
I still follow each match Brazil plays. My son also supports Brazil (he had to) and we make a great company. We both cried when the home team lost 7-1 to Germany in World Cup 2014. But now, I am so happy that our champ Neymar Jr. is only 9 goals away from surpassing the national record of the legend Pele. He already has 116 goal involvements in his 107 caps—such a beauty. This boy is going to win us the World Cup for sure. I want to lift my 21-year-old son again, chanting for my team.
Prabhuji Pant, 53
Portugal has perhaps the best team in the Euro Cup besides Belgium. I’m a big supporter of Christiano Ronaldo, so I’ll be supporting his team. Of course, no one will ever live up to Pelé for me. Growing up, he was the one I looked up to most. Me and my brothers used to play football in Dhobichaur ground and Pele was who I wanted to be like. I remember being 11 years old and going to watch league matches at Rangasala with my family. There was a place called Guccha Tol that had a small ground—that couldn’t hold over three players from a team at a time—and we used to play there, making our footballs, goal posts, and even rules.
I’m not one to gamble or take part in bets, but I’ve been in a lot of lottery ticket games and won a quite few too. You could say I’m lucky when it comes to football.
Birendra Paudel, 51
I’ve always been a huge fan of Brazil’s football team and that’s exactly the team I’ll be supporting this Copa America. I don’t have any specific alliance for the Euro Cup, but I believe Belgium is a contender. This team is one of the best ever and they’ll probably reach the finals this year. Football is something that’s been a part of my life for a long time now. We never had the equipment to play football growing up. So we usually made do with rubber balls and a heap of clothes tied together to look like a sphere. The grounds were small and the goalposts even smaller.
I remember being around nine-year-old and listening to the 1978 FIFA World Cup commentary on the radio. It was only during my high school days that I got to watch the finals on television. In 1986, when the World Cup was televised in Nepal, I sat down and watched the entire tournament even though the TV display was unclear with strange noises coming every few minutes.
After watching the games became a norm, me and my friends used to make lottery tickets after collecting money from everyone, where each person picks a country from a bowl of papers, and whoever gets the winning team gets all the money. Right now, I’m getting little sleep, trying to catch every game in the middle of the night while the rest of the family sleeps.
Subasana Thapaliya, 50
When I was 13, I was a national-level runner. I was always into athletics and that included running, so it’s not a surprise I used to play football with my brothers. There was this one time during my school years when Bagmati zone’s women football team didn’t have enough players, so they included me just to fill the quota. I knew little about the game since I only played for fun with family—and we lost the game—but it’s still one of my most cherished memories.
Even today, I still watch all the football games I can. Even if my husband and sons fall asleep, I’m the one watching the Euro and World Cup through the night.
This year, I’m rooting for Spain because I’ve been there many times and feel a personal connection to the country’s team. I also enjoy their gameplay. Football is a game of passion and stamina—and I love watching teamwork between the players. Most memories I have regarding football are fun, but there is one that saddens me to this day. The Escobar murder after the 1994 FIFA World Cup still breaks my heart.