Australia’s Nepalese community: ‘Football is one of the ways to keep us together’

Up to 8,000 Nepal fans are expected at Canberra’s GIO Stadium tonight as the Asian nation takes on the Socceroos in a World Cup qualifier.

There is a burgeoning Nepalese community in Australia and many are flocking to the nation’s capital to support the Gorkhakis according to Bijen Batajoo, president of the Australian Nepalese Football Association (ANFA).

The 2011 Cenus revealed that there were 24,636 people who were born in Nepal currently living in Australia, an increase of 439.6% from 2006. The majority live in NSW, in Sydney in particular, with small pockets in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.

Australian Nepalese Football Association
Australian Nepalese Football Association

Football is the country’s most popular sport and has long been a unifying force for its people, both at home and down under. The ANFA, which has more than 25 member clubs, was founded in 2011 and organises regular tournaments and competitions.

These clubs include the Auburn Nepalese Football Club, Brothers United, Campsie Football Club, Granville Rhinos and Parra Park.

“ANFA was formed to help and support growing numbers of Nepalese players, clubs and tournaments in Australia,” Batajoo explained to The World Game.

“Our vision is to develop Nepalese players who not only possess good skills as football players but have strong character through sportsmanship and community spirit. Our goal is to sponsor and promote such athletes, and to provide codes of behaviour and playing regulations for participants and volunteers.

“Most of the players are migrants and students. This is one of the ways to keep the community together, healthy and keep young kids focus and out of trouble.”

Nepal are ranked 161st in the world and are expecting to put up slim opposition to the Socceroos. The Gorkhakis, coached by Swede Johan Kalin, have never qualified for a FIFA World Cup or Asian Cup.

They started the 2022 World Cup qualification journey with a 7-0 loss to Kuwait and followed it up with a 2-0 win over Chinese Taipei.

But they will be supported by thousands of people from the Himalayan country who will head to Canberra for the match.

“There will be approximately 5000 to 8000 there,” Batajoo said.

“Australia is a strong team, I believe the Nepal team are more focused on performance rather than results.

“It is a young team and learning as the days progress so better for the future.”

Bikesh Shrestha, club secretary of Auburn Nepalese FC, says the Nepalese community in Australia is growing quickly and will be out in force at GIO Stadium.

“Now it’s very big, not only in Sydney, but there are Nepalese people are all over Australia,” he said.

“Soccer is quite popular among the Nepalese community. You’ll see at the game in Canberra, GIO Stadium will be whole packed by Nepalese supporters.

“We are supporting both the Socceroos and the Nepalese team. It’ll be good experience for them playing against Socceroos, that’s for sure.”