Meen Maya Shrestha’s Inspiring Football Journey Q & A

Meet Meen Maya Shrestha, a rising football star from the serene village of Panauti in Kavrepalanchok district, Nepal. Recently, she proudly donned the national colours, representing Nepal in the Women’s SAFF Championship 2024 Under-16 category. Despite facing a setback from injury, she showed her resilience by participating in two crucial matches against Bangladesh and India.

Meen Maya’s football journey began with her selection for the Kavrepalanchok district team, eventually earning her a spot on the national stage. However, her journey was not without challenges. During her debut match against Bangladesh, she suffered an injury that threatened her participation in subsequent matches. Recognizing her importance as a key player, the coach strategically rested her for the match against Bhutan to ensure she was fit for the vital encounter against India.

Despite this setback, Meen Maya’s strong determination and love for the game never faded, setting an example for other young footballers. Join us as we delve deeper into her remarkable journey in the world of football.

Let’s explore Meen Maya Shrestha’s journey in the world of football through a Q&A session.

Can you tell us about your journey into football? How did you get started and what motivated you to pursue it seriously?

Well, my football journey started when I was at Shree Indreshwor Secondary School in Panauti, about four years ago. I remember being new to the school and seeing some girls playing football. It was a revelation for me because I never thought girls played football too! My friends saw my interest and encouraged me to join them. One day, a senior brother from the school came asking for girls who played football. Even though I didn’t raise my hand, my friends had already put forward my name! That’s how I got into it. The brother was incredibly supportive and motivated all of us, not just me. He believed in our potential and even mentioned that we could play for the national team one day. That’s when I started taking football seriously, and I’ve been passionate about it ever since.

What position do you play in football?

In school, district, and village teams, I used to play as a midfielder. However, when I was selected for the Nepal Under-16 team, the coach asked me to play as a centre-back. So, for the Nepal Under-16 SAFF Championship 2024, I played as a centre-back for the country.

Who played a key role in guiding you into football and supporting your journey as a player?

My coach, Prashant Tamrakar, played a crucial role. He provided the essential basics of football and consistently nurtured my development as a player.

Meen Maya stands third from the left during the selection process for Kavrepalanchok district.

Who assisted in your selection for the Nepal Under-16 national team?

Prashant Tamrakar, my guru, was instrumental in my selection journey, guiding and motivating me throughout the process, ensuring my inclusion in the final squad.

Meen Maya Shrestha during the final selection process at ANFA Complex, Satdobato, Lalitpur, for the Nepal Under-16 team.

How many members are there in your family?

In my family, there are five of us: my mom, dad, elder sister, younger brother, and myself.

How has your family’s support been regarding your involvement in football?

My family became more supportive as I played football for my province and district teams. On one occasion, when I earned Rs 2500 from a match and gave it to my mother, she was happy, and their support increased even more. Moreover, bringing home the “Man of the Match” trophies from inter-school competitions and the “Best Player of the Tournament” trophies further fueled their encouragement and pride. Despite these successes, they gently nudged me towards prioritizing my studies, acknowledging the limited prospects for football in Nepal.

How do you balance your time between studying and playing football?

It’s really hard. I’m currently in class 10, and I have to manage everything myself instead of relying on others to teach me. Being a girl, playing football poses unique challenges. I have responsibilities at home, need to make time for studying and find time to play. After school, there’s usually a time for snacks and rest, but for me, that’s when I have to fit in my gameplay and training. It’s tough because I also need to handle household chores and schoolwork during these hours. Balancing everything is a challenge, but I’m determined to make it work because I’m passionate about playing football.

Meen Maya stands tall as the first player from the right, adorned in jersey number 3, representing Nepal in the
Women’s SAFF Championship 2024 for the national Under-16 team.

How did you feel playing for the Nepal Under-16 team, and what did you learn from the experience?

Playing for the Nepal Under-16 team was an incredible experience. I felt overwhelmed with love and pride from everyone, including the coach and teammates. Even receiving the training jersey filled me with immense pride and brought tears to my eyes. Throughout the journey, I learned valuable lessons, especially the importance of discipline in football. The coaches imparted so much knowledge and helped improve my gameplay significantly. It was a pivotal moment in my career, and representing the nation at the Under-16 level immensely contributed to my development as a player.

What do you consider your strengths as a footballer, and which areas are you focusing on improving?

I consider my motivation and dedication to hard work as my strengths. Currently, I’m focusing on improving my mental game and physical strength, particularly after my experience with the Nepal Under-16 team where I saw their significance. Another quality I’m confident about is facing challenges fearlessly. With this mindset, I’m optimistic about my future improvement and success.

Meen Maya Shrestha, sporting jersey number 14, during the final selection process.

What are your goals and aspirations for your football career in the future?

I aim to stay deeply motivated and dedicated to football, as it’s something I deeply feel passionate about. With the experience gained from representing the nation in the Under-16 team, I believe I can make a meaningful impact in football in the future. I have the potential to achieve something significant in football in the days to come, so I’m putting in the work to make it happen.

Who are your biggest inspirations or role models in football?

I admire Sabitra Bhandari “SAMBA” didi and Preeti Rai didi.

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