Versatile Rohit returns with a bang, aims for returning to national team


KATHMANDU, Feb. 4: Rohit Chand, one of the most promising prospects of Nepali football, is back in action with a bang following an injury layoff of eight months. 

In early 2016, the 25-year-old joined Malaysian T-Team Football Club and picked a knee injury during a pre-season match in January which forced him out of action for eight months.

Before joining the Malaysian outfit, he traded his footballing skills with various top-tier leagues of abroad including HAL Sporting Club in India, Indonesian clubs PSPS Pekanbaru and Persija Jakarta from 2010 to 2015. He also became the only Nepali footballer to play full season abroad.  

The midfielder-cum-defender marked his comeback during the 15th Aaha-Rara Gold Cup held in Pokhara from January 17 to 28. He not only played a key role in guiding Manang Marshyangdi Club to title haul of the prestigious tournament but also won the man-of-the-match award in one out of three matches played by the team.   

He is currently in Jhapa with Manang playing his second tournament - Jhapa Gold Cup -- since coming back from injury. He again played a vital role to guide his team to semifinals with the man-of-the-match performance against New Road Team in the quarterfinal on Thursday.  

Rohit, who made his debut for the national team at the age of 17, was unfortunate not to be a part of the successful Nepali national team that won three titles -- SAG, Bangabandhu Gold Cup and AFC Solidarity Cup -- last year due to the very injury he picked in Malaysia.

However, he kept his frustrations aside to celebrate the national's team success. “Yes I was frustrated for not being a part of the national team that lifted back-to-back titles. But I understand that injury is part of professional footballers. No one can escape from this,” said Rohit. “It would have been amazing experience for me to win trophy for the nation but others did it. Thus, I am happy for my team though I was not there,” added Rohit. 

Despite getting injured at the beginning of the 2016 season, he underwent knee surgery in March and spent 30 days in Kolkata for the final stage of rehabilitation at the end of year. As per the suggestion of Indian national player Nirmal Chhetri, Rohit spent almost a month with Mohun Bagan's Brazilian physiotherapist in rehabilitation. 

“I am working to get match fitness in order to be available for the national team selection for upcoming AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers. And I got suitable offer from Manang,” said Rohit, who has not signed contract with the A Division outfit.  “I haven't signed any contract with Manang and it pays me on the basis of matches played. Before joining Indonesian club for the first time, I had an agreement to play for MMC. But it released me despite the contract,” added the versatile player.

Rohit wore the national jersey for the first time in 2010 during the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers held in Kathmandu against Palestine. At the age of 17 he also set the record of youngest player to debut for the national team then. 

“As the first-choice left back Anjan KC was injured, I was called to the team and played whole 90 minutes. Though we failed to make it to the next round, it was an amazing experience for me,” said Rohit. Though the tournament was forgettable for Nepal, it was memorable for Rohit as he played for full time. 

Since then, Rohit has never looked back and has always been a key member of the national team except for his injury period. His decision to change his playing position from striker to defender also helped him secure a crucial role in the national team. 

At the age of 14 Rohit, who hails from Surkhet, was a striker and that same position got him a place in the ANFA Academy. “I was playing as striker then. But there were many better strikers in the batch of 50 players in the academy. I wasn't getting proper attention from coaches as there were many better players than me at that position. I was sure I wasn't going to get chance to play as a striker so I decided to switch to defense,” he recalled.

Although he made his breakthrough in national team as left back, he later made his name as central defender before moving abroad to pursue his professional career. He was equally efficient as midfielder in Indonesian and Malaysian clubs. 

Rohit, who has won 46 caps for the country, is again planning to continue his professional career abroad. Though he is yet to get offers from foreign clubs, he is in touch with his Indonesian agent. “I haven't received any offer yet, but I hope to get soon. I am in touch with my agent and he is regularly taking updates about my fitness,” said Rohit. 

Among other things, he points out lack of league and proper football structure in the country and ambition to play at higher level as motivating factor to pursue career abroad. “If we had regular league here, I would also have considered playing for domestic club. But we don't have league and proper structure, so I need to think about playing abroad,” clarified Rohit. 

He thinks many other Nepali players are capable of playing foreign leagues, especially the current young members of the national team. “There is not much difference between young Nepali players and those playing leagues in Indonesia and Malaysia in terms of quality. Our young lads can play there,” added Rohit. “But the difference is the quality and structure of the league. 

For now, Rohit's primary aim besides moving abroad is to get back to the national team. “I want to get back to the national team and I hope I will meet my target of getting back to full fitness at the time of selection of the national team for the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers,” said an optimistic Rohit. Nepal's campaign for the qualifiers will begin from March 28.  (MR)

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