From Terhathum to the national fold, the journey of Anita Basnet

  • 2020-08-28

During her early schooling years, Anita Basnet saw her school seniors playing football at her school in Terhathum district. She immediately fell in love with the game and started playing it. "There were other games too in the district but I was fascinated by football. I think it’s the beauty of the game, easy to understand and loved by all," said Basnet. Basnet, now is a household name in Nepali women's football. But her rise from a young girl who watched her seniors play to a regular in the national team has been marked by struggles and her desire to overcome them.

Basnet fell in love with the game but in a society where girls playing the game are looked upon with stigma, it was not easy for her to get going. But those hurdles soon cleared when she received good support from her family for the game. "My parents never tried to dissuade me from playing football. That helped me a lot during the early days,' said Anita.

A girl with steer determination, Basnet soon found the platform she was looking for to find her footing in the game. She had become a successful footballer in her district winning multiple local tournaments with her local club. Just before the Sixth National Games in 2012, Basnet was selected for Eastern Region after a regional selection. While playing in Biratnagar, she was spotted by Prem Shrestha, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) of Armed Police Force (APF). A keen football fan by himself, Shrestha asked Basnet if she would be interested to play for APF. It was a proposal she would immediately accept.

While playing for APF, a call came from the national side. Basnet made her debut for the national side in the 2014 SAFF Women's Championship in Pakistan where Nepali side was edged out by India in the final. Since then, she has made 26 appearances for the national side scoring two goals.

Basnet has also plied her trade in Maldives and India. In Maldives, she played futsal with Maldives Police team scoring 11 goals. She has also played in the Indian Women's League for Sethu FC. Basnet's team Sethu were crowned champions during her first season in 2019. They missed out on the title during her second season.

Basnet, who dons the number 11 shirt for her club and her country, said her debut goal for the national side scored against Iran in the 2019 Women's Gold Cup in India is her biggest and happiest moment of her footballing career. But she still finds it hard to swallow for not being able to win the SAFF Women's Championship with her country. Since its first edition in 2010, Nepal has reached the final in four occasions but lost to India in each of them.

The midfielder said the level and standard of Nepali football has rose but there are still plenty of areas for improvement. "The number of tournaments we play is high and that is a very positive aspect," said Basnet. Basnet said they can make a living out of football but one should not have high expectations. "Everyone including the players and the footballing body are doing what they can to improve the standard of Nepali football. But changes take time," said Basnet.

Basnet said she enjoys playing football and will enjoy the game as long as she can. "I can't think of anything except football as the game is in my veins. I will remain in the game as long as my body allows," she said. Basnet said the game has given her a name and she is very proud to identify herself as a footballer. Her parents, she said, are extremely proud of her being a footballer. "What more do I need when my parents take pride on their daughter," Basnet said with a giggle.

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