Nepal head coach Abdullah Al Mutairi denied on Sunday that he ordered ten footballers to leave the closed camp, claiming they departed the national squad “without prior clearance.”
A month before their 2023 AFC Asian Cup Group ‘A’ Qualifiers, the national squad has been thrown into disarray after the first-team players left the camp, claiming the coach had told them to go home.
In a joint press conference on Thursday, the agitating 10 footballers said they had left the camp after coach Almutairi forced them to leave due to a disagreement about accommodation facilities.
The players had encouraged the coach and authorities from the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) to house them in a hotel rather than the ANFA dormitory, citing a lack of basic facilities. The row erupted on Sunday, just days after the coach barred the players from speaking to the media in a controlled press briefing after the coach responded “aggressively” to their request for a hotel and removed temporary captain Rohit Chand from the squad for speaking on their behalf.
According to the exiled players, the coach then kicked out nine others for supporting Chand. They have also accused the coach of attempting to manage them off the field and emotionally tormenting them. The closure of the camp began on Monday.
In a letter to ANFA General Secretary Indraman Tuladhar, Coach Almutairi described the players’ actions as “unilateral,” claiming that they “hurt” him.
“Please realize that the unilateral action of players has severely affected me because I have always had Nepal national football’s best interests at heart,” the coach adds in the letter.
The coach described the players’ protest as an “impulse of the fresh blood that has led to an uncomfortable situation,” and he apologized for the players’ “slanderous remarks” about him. The Kuwaiti also urges the country’s football governing body not to “punish them for their errors.”
ANFA vice-presidents Pankaj Bikram Nembang, Krishna Bahadur Thapa, and Bir Bahadur Khadka, as well as executive committee member Dawa Lama, have encouraged the top football organization to convene an executive committee meeting as soon as possible to address the situation.
Karma Tsering Sherpa, president of ANFA, has also stated that the issues will be rectified.
However, the situation has deteriorated.
Instead of heeding cries for resolution, the so-called “father figure,” Almutairi, summoned up 17 new players to the national team camp on Friday in an attempt to replace the agitated players.
Almutairi also informed in the letter that he has chosen to exclude the agitating players from the Qualifiers, which will be held from June 8 to 14 in Kuwait.
“As a coach and main selector for the National Football Team, I have both the authority and the obligation to develop a team,” Almutairi explains. “It is my obligation to select the finest possible lineup for the Nepal national team.” And for that reason, I’ve chosen to eliminate the names of players (from the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers) who have left the national team without prior permission, which I believe is in the best interests of the Nepal national team and its performance.”
And the coach, who openly recognized Nepal’s failure in Kuwait before even starting the third and final round of qualifying, when he publicly declared that Nepal’s dreams of qualifying for the China finals are a pipe dream, is willing to be held accountable for the team performance.
“I would also like to underline that I accept full responsibility for the Nepal national team’s performance in the Asian Cup 2023 Qualifiers,” the coach said.
“I hope you understand my situation and assist me in carrying out my obligations to the best of my ability, which is always for the benefit of the Nepali national football team.”
Almutairi, who has declared his retirement as coach three times on social media but has managed to keep his position in Nepal, extending his contract until December 2023, also claims he wants to remain to coach the national team.
“I am confident that I have achieved considerable progress in the Nepal national football team, and I intend to continue,” the coach says.
The players have demanded that the ANFA conduct an investigation into Almutiari’s behavior, accusing him of imposing “dictatorship” in the camp and punishing those responsible.
However, the ANFA has not issued a formal statement regarding the player-coach conflict, nor has it launched an investigation into the incident.