The Shots enter the Aaha! RARA Gold Cup tomorrow at the quarter-final stage, but today – before completing preparations with one last training session – visited the Sahara Academy in Pokhara, organisers of the tournament and the most successful charity in Nepal. Dan Mellors gives us his view…
“We’re all really excited at the prospect of tomorrow’s game. It’s the moment that we’ve all been waiting for, and all of the answers about how you’re feeling will start to come out. It’s when a few people will start to feel nervous but it’s an exciting time for all of us.
“We play Far Western, Kailali, another Academy side with a big influence from the All-Nepal Football Association’s own national under-17 team, and we know it will be a difficult game. They’ve earned their right to be in the quarter-final, and any opposition at this stage will provide a tough challenge.
“The team has been announced this evening, and I will be playing on the right of midfield. My natural position is a striker but I embrace any differences, and have been used in several positions before. Our coaches tell me that I can defend as well as attack and I take that as a compliment, if they have faith in me to play a different role. Brandon Lewington is playing up front alongside Ashley Bayliss, and we are looking to utilise their pace, whereas my physicality can perhaps help us in defensive situations. I’ve played on the wing before and I’m relishing the challenge.
“We trained at the Rangasala Stadium for the first time this afternoon and it was awesome. Some people had suggested that the pitch would be quite bad but it’s not, it’s just a bit hard. It’s probably the biggest stadium that any of us have played in, and we can’t wait to get started.
“Although training went well this afternoon, personally I thought I was quite bad, so maybe that’s why I’m playing on the wing, as I couldn’t finish anything!
“Nepalese football fans are known for their vocal support and this is the experience that we wanted to have, to play in front of big crowds. Whether they are for you or against you, it is something that you have to deal with. Obviously I’m hoping that the fans will be on our side but it’s our challenge to block out the noise and atmosphere, and focus purely on the match.
“Earlier today we visited the Sahara Academy, and it perfectly illustrated why football is a sport which brings a smile to people’s faces. It brings people together, and that’s part of the reason why we here, to bring the two cultures together. They’ve got some great facilities, and it was lovely to see everything that the Academy does to help young children. It was a really nice day.
“On the way back from the Academy, where we donated some kit and equipment, Ben Hutchings had one football left, and was looking to see if he could throw it to any of the kids who ran up to the bus – he threw it to one child who waved at us and his eyes lit up. Immediately he was kicking it around and loving it. It was wonderful to see the smile on his face.”