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UN peacekeeper and Nepal midfielder

Raju Tamang’s next assignment is the Saff Championships, beginning in New Delhi on Friday. That’s quite a shift from the central midfielder’s last assignment - being part of a UN peacekeeping force in Haiti.

sports Updated: Dec 01, 2011 23:15 IST
Tomojit Basu

Raju Tamang’s next assignment is the Saff Championships, beginning here on Friday. That’s quite a shift from the central midfielder’s last assignment - being part of a UN peacekeeping force in Haiti.

Being a soldier in the tiny Caribbean nation for six-and-a-half months though meant a forced holiday for the footballer in him. He will play south Asia’s most important football competition with minimal practice having joined the squad this month.

“It was national duty for the Nepalese army and so I had to go when I was told to. I had no idea about the country!” Tamang told HT on Thursday ahead of Nepal’s opener against the Maldives.

“Our job was to ensure civilian peace because there were many problems as the people were still recovering from the devastating earthquake the year before.”

Asked what his daily regimen was like through those months, the Nepal Army Club player said, “I was based at the capital (Port-au-Prince) and we usually had four-hour shifts with mine being in the mornings mostly. Haiti has an issue with criminal gangs so we had to control street-violence to keep the crime rate low. Luckily, while I was stationed there, it was quite trouble-free.”

What about football on the job? “Oh, that was the sad part. I did not get to play at all and I was disappointed because a lot of my fellow soldiers came from Argentina, Brazil and Chile. But we had to stay physically fit which was great because once I got back and joined the camp it was as if I had never left the pitch!”

The 25-year-old, a fan of film actors John Abraham and Deepika Padukone, felt that Nepal stand a great chance of doing well in India.

“The coach is excellent and the players are 100% fit and confident. We’ve come here to win and playing in India is always exciting. I’m hoping for the best,” he said.