The RoundGlass Punjab FC squad boasts of a number of accomplished names, one of them being 30-year-old goalkeeper Kiran Kumar Limbu, who is the skipper of the Nepal senior national team and has plenty of Hero I-League experience under his belt, which includes lifting the trophy in the 2017-18 season.
“In the South Asia region, the level of league football in India is better than the other neighbouring countries and there is more exposure here. Getting the proposal to join a Hero I-League club is like playing at the next level and I’m here to give my best for my team. Till now it’s been a very good experience to play in the Hero I-League,” he said in a conversation with www.i-league.org.
The side from Punjab began their campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Aizawl FC, with Limbu keeping a clean sheet, before losing the lead to go down to Gokulam Kerala FC 4-3 in their second encounter. The custodian highlighted the ‘competitive’ nature of the league and stated that his team is aiming to improve in their next game.
“Before the league started, we knew that the Hero I-League is very competitive. Every match is a tough battle. The first game was really important and we started really well and won it. Unfortunately, in the second match, we had the lead but could not hold on to it and win. This is part and parcel of the game. We have to improve in the next match and go forward,” he expressed.
Limbu added, “Winning the Hero I-League title means a lot to me and it’s a great achievement in my career. It gave me a lot of confidence and it motivates me to do more in the future. Every match in this league is really competitive and I am here to help my team to be the champions.”
Want to see 6-7 Nepali players in India
The vastly-experienced goalkeeper is his nation’s only representative in the Hero I-League this season and in the recent past, we have seen a few players from Nepal impress with their displays in India – such as Abhishek Rijal in the Hero I-League Qualifier 2020 and Sabitra Bhandari and Anita Basnet in the Hero Indian Women’s League.
Limbu spoke about his desire to see more Nepali players ply their trade in India in the coming years and hoped that his performances can help open windows of opportunity for his compatriots.
“It certainly feels nice to see Nepali players in India. The more they get the chance to play here, the better it is for them and for the upcoming generation of players. I hope to see in the future that 6-7 players get the opportunity to play in India. It will be really good for us and the national team too.”
“If I perform well and help my team win the Hero I-League, the door will definitely open for more Nepali players. I try my best in every match and every year to play well here and try to open the door for other players from my country,” the 188-cm tall keeper stated.
He added that fans back home in Nepal keep continuous tabs on his progress in India and send him best wishes before every game.
“Being a captain of my national team and representing my country, it feels very good. Fans in Nepal are always sending me messages and wishing me on matchdays. They are always motivating me and because of them, I am here today. It feels nice when they support me and I would like to convey my thanks to them,” he smiled.
Another key player for Punjab this season is Bhutanese winger and national team captain Chencho Gyltshen, who also played a vital role in Minerva Punjab’s 2017-18 title-winning run along with Limbu. With Bangladesh skipper Jamal Bhuyan also a part of this season’s Hero I-League, representing Kolkata giants Mohammedan SC, Limbu mentioned that he is ‘happy’ to see more and more South Asian players emerge at this level.
“It does feel great to see all these players from neighbouring countries play together and compete. I want to see as many players as possible from the South Asian region emerge and compete at this stage. So far, there are only three of us in India and I hope that more such opportunities will open up for others in the future,” he averred.
He continued, “Chencho and I are like brothers. We met during our national teams’ friendly matches for the first time and have stayed in touch ever since. Now, we’re really close friends. I keep speaking to a lot of Indian players as well – they are all good friends of mine and we are in constant touch.”
(Shraishth Jain / AIFF Media)