News Remembering Ace Footballer Mani Shah (Senior GN Columnist Sushil Thapa Writes...)
Sushil Thapa

Nothing hurts more than when someone you know passes away. It is even much more difficult to remember and put thoughts into words about the person.

When I heard the news of former international footballer Mani Shah’s untimely death, I was shocked and had an overwhelming feeling of sadness.

Shah died of liver cirrhosis, at the age of 51, too young and early. He leaves behind a legion of adoring fans and an unmatched legacy which will always remain immortal in football history of Nepal.

It is most appropriate that we remember him by looking back on his legacy and accomplishments.He started playing football at a tender age, thanks largely to the support of his father.

After that, there was no looking back for Shah as he caught the eyes of the selectors. The youngster made a quick start, following his selection to the youth team for the “Prince Cup “ football tournament in Bangkok.Thailand. Rest is history.

Without his father’s encouragement, support and motivation, probably, Shah would not have attained the super star stature in Nepali football.

His father saw in him enormous potential to become a star. He truly believed that he had the ability, talent and skills needed to excel in football.

More important, he mentored his son and made sure he was one hundred percent committed,played to his potential and wholeheartedly supported him all along.

He was absolutely right as his son developed into a brilliant footballer with the reputation of a lethal striker. By the time he hung up his boots, the stocky ace striker had carved a niche for himself in Nepal football.

Unsurprisingly, it did not take long for Shah to win a spot in the national team,making his debut at the age of 18. He cemented his place in the senior team for thirteen long years starting from 1985 before playing his final tournament at the Asian Games in Bangkok, Thailand in 1998.

He was a key player and a top notch striker upon whom the team heavily relied on his goal scoring prowess. What made him a cut above others was his ability to improvise moves and translate into goals.

His presence in the team made a world of difference.He ranks as one of the country’s finest ever strikers.His footballing artistry earned him the title of Diego Maradona.

Whether it was his silky dribbling wizardry or sizzling pinpoint freekicks or great finishing or play making quality, it was always a joy to watch.

Born in Kaldhara, Kathmandu in 1967, Shah made 48 international appearances,which include Asian Games, World Cup Qualifiers, Olympic Games Qualifiers, South Asian Games, AFC Club tournaments and many more for the national team, scoring 6 goals.

At the club level, he played for different clubs in Nepal,India and Bangladesh but for the most part was associated with Manang Marshyangdi Club(MMC).

In fact, as an upcoming footballer Shah tool plunge into the world of competitive football earlier than expected after he joined MMC then in the D Division.He lived up the hype surrounding him, survived the treacherous road to success, and he became a star of the team,playing a pivotal role in taking it to A Division.

I had the privilege to know him, and I saw him at close quarters.As a person, he was free-wheeling, accommodating, candid and sometimes blunt.

On the other hand, as a player he was tremendously skilful, had a knack of scoring goals and sometimes went wayward.He made playing football look easy.

On the field, his individual brilliance always kept the opposition defense on their toes. He had the honour to wear the captain jersey and did a fairly good job.

Pay a visit to his house where you will see a room decked with trophies and memorabilia from his glory days in football. Yes, trophies alone cannot be the true measure of his greatness,but if you had watched him play ,I bet you wouldn’t have disagreed.

At the height of his career, on the domestic front, I watched him play on a regular basis.Later, as a journo, I had the opportunity to assess and analyze his performance, nationally and internationally.

Of the many highlights of his career, his long range free kick conversion into a goal against India in the dying moments to level the score in the final of the 1993 South Asian Games in Bangladesh stands out.Later Nepal went on to win in a penalty shootout.

I was physically present at the stadium and watched the spectacular spectacle unfold. As I saw it, I vividly remember, the goal was a gem.

Shah’s contributions to Nepal football has been immense, and his legacy will live on forever. You will be dearly missed.

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