Thursday, May 23

Segura’s Jhapa in Crisis!

Subas Humagain, Kathmandu

On the eve of the Nepal Super League’s second season, Spanish coach Oriol Mohedano Segura promised to produce organized football with Jhapa Football Club. Halfway through the league stage, Jhapa, boosted by two Spanish players and a strong Nepali core, has produced anything but just that. With the team winless in four matches, a tough test awaits the injury-plagued team.

Jhapa’s crisis is not just limited to the field; they have been facing off-field issues every matchday. The captain of the team, Anjan Bista, is out injured; foreign players’ reluctance to play and altercations between officials and players in the dressing room have rocked the team hard.

Jhapa was dealt a major blow even before the tournament began when star midfielder Laken Limbu picked up an injury on national duty. Laken was certain to miss a few matches, but Jhapa decided to wait for him by putting him in the squad.

But after losing one player after another due to injuries, Jhapa finally decided to leave Laken out of plan. In the fourth match, he was replaced by Hari Karki on the team sheet.

Injured Midfielder Laken Limbu in stands.

In the first game itself, American midfielder Diraj Thajali got injured. The diagnosis after the game showed he had broken his nose, which meant his NSL2 campaign lasted just 77 minutes. According to the NSL, there is no provision for replacing foreign players, even if they’re injured.

In the second game, captain Anjan Bista left the field, sustaining a shoulder injury. He has since missed both games. In third match, midfielder Awas Lamichhane collapsed on the field after the match ended. He was put in an ambulance and taken to the hospital. However, he started the fourth game and played the full game. His performance, though, was below par.

In the second match, midfielder Fernando C. Torres was replaced by Segura toward the end. Limited to the bench in the third game, he was in the stands for the fourth game. After the match, Segura was asked about Torres, but the coach declined to make any comments and said the club would make a statement on the situation.

Diraj Thajali and Fernando C Torres in Stands

‘I’m concerned with the question. and I expect the statement to arrive. It will not be in the media room now. I hope the club will make a statement in a short time’

Also, another foreign player was involved in an altercation in the dressing room ahead of the match against the Pokhara Thunders. It turned physical, and they were separated by other players. Along with this, the reaction of foreign players to mistakes by Nepalese players shows a lack of unity in the team.

Coach Segura arrived with the aim of producing organized football, but his organization is seen as lacking both on and off the field. Despite having a better Nepali “core” compared to other teams, Jhapa’s dependence on Segura to acquire players seems to be backfiring.

While playing under the Spanish coach, midfielder Torres had a poor performance in both matches. Forward Jorge Sánchez Canilas has yet to open scoring in four games. Not just the numbers, but he is yet to get on with the team’s style of play. Despite his physical presence, he has not tested opposition defenders or goalkeepers either.

However, goalkeeper Stefan Cupic and defender Samandar Ochilov have been impressive in their journey. Ochilov was adjudged the player of the match against Pokhara and has continued the run. Goalkeeper Cupic is doing justice to the role too.

Segura, after the third point in the fourth game, was questioned about whether his team was in crisis or not. He replied, ‘I was not doing the mathematics. I go game after game. I think it’s not done. At least we’re not giving up on the dressing room.’

‘The worry is there. I take some responsibility. But I don’t give any chance to players or other members of the team to give up, because it’s not.’

After collecting 3 points in 4 games, Jhapa now has to play undefeated Dhangadhi and Lalitpur, as well as Butwal and Chitwan. Currently, Jhapa is in eighth place with 3 points and is only 2 points away from the playoff spot. Jhapa has a chance to make it through since lots of matches in the league have ended in draws.

Jhapa will be hoping for the return of captain Anjan as well as solving the problem with foreign players before facing Butwal on Tuesday. If that doesn’t happen, Segura’s wait for that elusive win will continue.

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