Nawal’s New Moves

February 6, 2013 , by Bibek Bhandari, Leave your thoughts
Nawal’s New Moves » My Dreams Mag

Nawal Gurung’s dream of becoming a football star crashed at an early age. But his devotion to the world’s most beautiful game and determination helped him find a way to keep his passion intact. A football coach and a physiotherapist, Gurung works with local football clubs in Nepal and England to breed the next generation of players.

By the age of 15, Nawal Gurung was living his dream. However, it was short-lived.

The teenage British-Nepalese had his goal set to become a shining star in football. But he was diagnosed with hernia—a lump that occurs from a weakness in the wall of the abdomen—and had to undergo a surgery, stopping him from playing football.

“That was a big blow,” says Gurung who recently turned 30. “It’s a crucial time when you are about to sign contracts.”

But Gurung stayed strong, and did not let his dream die. He challenged the “most difficult part” of his life when “everything was moving backward” and channelled his energy to focus on his only passion: football.

“It’s during those hard times you learn the most,” Gurung says of the difficult times that moulded his growth, development and maturity. “If I hadn’t stuck to football, I would have lost it all.”



A son of a British Gurkha soldier, Gurung moved to England at the age of 7. Born in Hong Kong, he spent his initial years between Nepal and India before heading West, which would then be his home.

Gurung describes his move to London as a “huge cultural shock.” He struggled with the language and lifestyle, but he quickly adapted.

“Football was one of the ways I integrated,” he says.

He started playing football at the age of age of 8. Young Gurung joined his primary school’s football team as a right back.

His father, a footballer himself, helped Gurung and his brother train at home and learn the basics. The rest, he says, was “just a momentum.”

In the early days, Gurung was simply fascinated by the game.

“At that age you don’t think about being a professional footballer, you don’t think of being a star,” he smiles looking at the football he was holding in his hands. “You just love the game and it makes you happy.”

But as he got better, Gurung was on board Fulham Scouts at the age of 9 and later Tottenham Scout, a network of 35 scouts that coaches young footballers from age 8 to 18.

By his mid-teens, the young, aspiring footballer was giving trials for the Birmingham-based Aston Villa Football Club.

But his surgery for hernia and other injuries that followed during football practices, kept him distant from the games.

An average-built, five-feet-ten-inches tall Gurung, though he sees himself as an “injury-prone guy,” but he did not let that hurt his determination.

“I only knew football,” he laughs, adding, “I didn’t have a choice. Nothing else appealed to me.”

Rather than finding a new path and taking a detour, Gurung decided to study Sports Therapy at University of Kent.



In January 2012, Gurung travelled to Nepal for the third time. Compared to his earlier visits to his native land, this one was different—he would be in Nepal for almost six months, and he would also be putting his studies to a test.

Also, Gurung had qualified as an UEFA Level 2 coach, which made him eligible for coaching children and lower-level teams.  But his target is to qualify as an UEFA ‘B’ and then UEFA ‘A’ coach. The UEFA ‘B’ and ‘A’ Licenses are the final coaching qualifications from UEFA, Europe’s governing body of football.

But in order to qualify for UEFA ‘B,’ Gurung had to train footballers in a professional environment.

A selfish motive coupled with a drive to give back to the country that helped him realise his passion, Gurung made his move.

As an adult, the football fanatic first visited Nepal in 2005. He was in the country after almost 20 years.

As a part of Sahara UK, a Nepali youth football club affiliated with the Farnborough Football Club in England, Gurung was there to play a friendly match with the locals.

A confident, well-trained Sahara UK team, says Gurung, underestimated the Nepali players in the town of Pokhara.

“My first impression was we were going to win,” says Gurung remembering the shock they had after their loss.

“And the second impression was how good they were. Despite any good coaching and a 100-year-old training protocol.”

Gurung defines that as a “humble moment.”

It was then and there he realised what he could do for other football enthusiasts like him in Nepal. It also seemed like a good time to return to his roots.

In the beginning of 2012, the 30-year-old was assisting the coach for the Himalayan Sherpa Club, an ‘A’ Division football club in Nepal. He was later appointed as the head coach.

“They took faith in a young guy,” he smiles.

Weeks later, the All Nepal Football Association appointed him as a physiotherapist for the Under-22 national football team. Gurung was also a part of U-22’s coaching team.

Until he returned to London in July, Gurung trained, treated and toured with young Nepalese footballers. He describes the players as “raw talent” who can advance much higher, if given the right trainings and treatment.

“You got to understand,” he says with a little irritation when he talks about how the training techniques in Nepal.

He elaborates: “A striker and defender have different roles. So they are better off doing different fitness regimen. But in Nepal, the entire team is doing the same. You have to be specific.”

As a physiotherapist, he then talks about how this might—and is—affecting the team.

“Nepalese are vulnerable to overuse injuries,” he points out, explaining that when someone is repeating the same exercise, they would affect the same muscles, increasing chances of injury.

“Science and sports has to meet, and it’s not happening in Nepal,” he express sadness but also raises hope on what could be achieved in coming days.

“Nepal is working hard,” Gurung says, and adds, “But Nepal needs to work smart.”




Gurung is soft spoken. Though he moved to England at the age of 7, he does not have a strong British accent. He still speaks fluent Nepali and talks a lot about Nepal and Nepali football players.

He shows his red football jersey gifted by one of his favourite football players: It had Bikash Singh Chettri’s name. Chettri is the defender for Nepal’s national team.

“I came back and all the Beckhams meant nothing to me,” he says in praise of Nepali footballers. “I am a big fan of Nepali footballers—when someone has nothing [infrastructural and training-wise] and still produce, you got to respect that.”

He then slightly changes topic and talks about how modern Kathmandu is. He seemed amused by the number of coffee shops in the city.

He says coffee makes him happy, and so Kathmandu was not a disappointment when it came to fulfilling his caffeine intake.

Gurung says he does his normal, everyday activities apart from playing football so that he does not end up being only a footballer.

Though football drives him, Gurung says he does not allow it to control his life.

An avid reader of mystic books and spirituality, Gurung carefully chooses his words and tries to relate them to the spiritual philosophies. He then mentions about the 3 Ms in his life: Music, Mathematics and Meditation.

At this point, Gurung sounds more like a spiritual leader and less of a football fanatic.

“Music brings out the creativity, mathematics gives you the logic in life and meditation helps you focus,” he defines what he values in life.

“That brings out mastery,” he subtly says.

And he wants to use his mastery in football, as a coach and physiotherapist, in Nepal. He sees the Nepali team “dominating South Asia” if headed the right direction.

Gurung aspires to be a part of that experience.

He remembers the words from one of his mentors. It’s his motto: “You should inspire before you expire.”

Nawal’s tips for young Nepali footballers

  1. Have integrity: You need hard work. It does not matter what situation you faced in life—football or anything else— you need to be of strong character.
  2. Be creative: Today’s football is about creativity. Bring your own signature and style to the game.
  3. Be authentic: Don’t try to be like Ronaldo. He is already there and if you try and be like him, you will always be second. Be inspired by him but don’t try to be like him. Be yourself.
  4. Gusto:  You need to do something for your own happiness. Do things that will make you happy. Don’t play football to impress someone.

Education: Don’t try to think you know it all. You don’t. Football is a continuous learning process. So keep yourself updated and never shy away from learning new things.

Photo: Nilesh Singh

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