News Super Star Samba Continues To Make Waves (Sr. Columnist Sushil Thapa Writes..)
Sushil Thapa

Sabitra Bhandari a.k.a. Samba, ace striker of the women’s national football team of Nepal continues to make waves in football on both domestic and international fronts.

The twenty seven year old recent transfer to the French side En Avant Guingamp that plays in the Division 1 Feminine, the highest professional women’s league in France is another feather in her cap. Prior to that she made history when she signed for Israeli club Hapoel Ra’anana and became Nepal’s first ever footballer to play for a team competing in UEFA sanctioned tournaments in Europe.

Unfortunately her stint with the club ended prematurely due to the Israel- Gaza conflict. Although she made only two appearances, she gave a good account of herself,scoring five goals. Samba didn’t have to live long with disappointment.She got an offer from the French first division side En Avant Guingamp. Indeed the offer was bigger than she expected and by far the biggest up to this point of her career.

What more could she possibly want? Now she is playing in the heart of Europe against quality opponents. This is the moment for her to dazzle and showcase her mettle on a bigger stage to a bigger audience. She has played as a substitute for a short period of time in two successive matches so far. It’s only the start of her new innings.If she can cash in on the opportunity it will certainly take her career to new heights.At the moment she is living a dream on the football field.

The native of Simpani,Lamjung has carved a niche for herself in Nepal football no doubt. It is not an overstatement to say that she has become the face of Nepal football. At a very tender age she developed intense passion for football and harbored a dream of becoming a professional and representing the country. Against all odds she relentlessly pursued her dream.She was determined,believed in her ability and never ever strayed from her ultimate goal. She toiled day and night training and honing her skills. At long last,she finally got the life changing breakthrough. There was no looking back for professional -to-be Samba. She made the most out of this opportunity.

Living up to her potential she turned into a skilful and sensational footballer in no time. A star was born. She became the cynosure of all eyes as her outstanding skills and on field exploits made headlines in domestic football. Given her talent,skills and scoring prowess,football clubs fiercely jockeyed for her. It did not take long for the national selectors to spot the phenom on the horizon.In her they saw a player of the highest quality and a big asset for women’s football. The selectors were absolutely right about her. She lived up to her expectations and turned into a goal scoring machine.Within no time,she became the all time leading goal scorer for the national team.

The turning point in Samba’s career came when she was signed by the Indian women’s professional football club Sethu Football Club, based in Madurai,Tamil Nadu,that played in the Indian Women’s League.

Her foray into the Indian Women’s League was highly successful.She proved herself to be a complete player and a prolific goal scorer.She was the top goal scorer for two consecutive seasons(2019-20 & 2022-23).

If Samba continues at this rate,she is destined for bigger success in her career. Given ample playing time,she has the potential to leave an indelible mark on the French soil and beyond.

By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax,VA, USA

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