Nepal – England Friendly International football match takes place! 

Above: members of the Nepal National Football Team arriving in the UK. Please see Team Members poster below.

This has been a special moment for the UK Nepal Friendship Society (UKNFS: now a part of the pan-British Isles Himalayan and Nepal Arts and Culture Society network) because of the special role we played in the enablement of the match ( 

This resulted in the request, that we were honoured to receive, of the then lead of Sahara UK, Mr Min Bahadur Gurung (also at that time a UKNFS director) and Sahara UK colleagues, that we could assist in enabling discussion and then negotiations with the FA, first Hampshire FA, and subsequently England FA itself [through Hampshire FA] in regard to securing the long sought friendly international match. We carried out this request with the earnestness required. Today’s match, four years on from the originally planned match date of late May 2020 which two weeks before had to necessarily be postponed due to a Covid pandemic lockdown, and with a very real risk that it could potentially never happen, has now taken place. 

Both countries and the football community itself are the winners from today’s match (a 2 – 0 victory to England C: as the legacy outcomes of this news report make clear.

In addition to the special UKNFS role, so many have played their parts in enabling the history that today truly is. Sahara UK for across many years proposing the match, Hampshire FA, then England FA itself under its National League System Lead, Mr Laurence Jones, with whom the UKNFS lead Alan Mercel-Sanca has worked so closely throughout, especially in the crucial 15+ months initial period (long before the location for the match that was subsequently agreed between the FA and ANFA) that resulted today in the many long years sought breakthrough of an official confirmation by the FA and ANFA that the match would be taking place. In the final stage and years of this historic initiative, Aldershot Town FC under its lead Mr Shahid Azeem played the honourable role of football club host for today’s match.

Finally, we pay special tribute to the vital role H.E. Ambassador of Nepal to the UK, Ireland, and Malta, Dr Durga Bahadur Subhedi played in the story of this match. It was his heartfelt and passionate blessing for the match taking place that enabled the match, as in his ambassadorial capacity the formal connection for the FA was made to the Youth and Sports Ministry of the Government of Nepal, and subsequently to ANFA. Alan/the UKNFS particularly remembers Mr Laurence Jones in the final stage of securing FA formal support for the match, being asked to enable an audience with His Excellency, Dr Subhedi.

This of course as history records was done and was a particularly important event that enabled today’s match. We also record here the important support that Mrs Rojina Pradhan Rai (UKNFS brand ambassador at that time, and also then a NRNA UK Vice President) provided in regard to the enablement phase of the match initiative.

Some key benchmarks in the record of enabling today’s historic match:

  • The UKNFS (under its lead Alan Mercel-Sanca) first introduction to the long sought friendly international football match project of Sahara UK samaj came through a contact we received from the Equality Manager of AFC Bournemouth requesting us to connect with Hampshire FA.
  • A first meeting to discuss this and other diversity in football subjects that related strongly to UKNFS guiding vision and values, took place at the Cherries/AFC Bournemouth ground, and subsequently led to a meeting with Hampshire FA’s Equality lead at Aldershot in conjunction with Sahara UK and other key Rushmoor area Nepali-Gurkha community organisations leads and the President of the NTNA UK, Mjr Damar Ghale. 
  • This in turn led to direct UKNFS – Hampshire FA meetings to discuss the match project. These were held at the Hampshire FA HQ in Basingstoke. The final one of these being attended by the FA’s Head of the National League System, Mr Laurence Jones.
  • Before the UKNFS engagement/intervention, there had been at least 10+ years of earnest, yet sadly unsuccessful engagement in lifting up the long cherished dream of a friendly international football match between England (England C) and Nepal (Nepal National Football Team).
  • Sahara UK then through discussions between myself and the then Sahara UK Lead and a UKNFS Director, Mr Min Bahadur Gurung, sought our assistance to at last get this wonderful initiative over the line. 
  • Initial England FA – UKNFS meeting at Hampshire FA’s HQ in Basingstoke, and then, finally subsequent UKNFS enablement of the in person meeting of the FA’s Head of the National League System with H.E. Ambassador Durga Bahadur Subedi (, also patron of the UKNFS. 
  • In the months before the originally – pre-Covid lock downs envisaged May 2020 match, led on enabling the initial stage preparation for the England FA visit to KTM led by the FA’s Head of the National League System, Mr Laurence Jones.  In this we delegated practical arrangements and support to our friends Sahara UK.
  • Once the match had been formally agreed to take place, the FA Equality Manager, Mr Kevin Coleman emailed UKNFS Lead, Alan Mercel-Sanca, suggesting that if helpful the world famous FA ‘Emirates’ Cup Trophy could be displayed — with photo opportunities for players and match spectators at the annual Gurkha Cup (Aldershot) which is hosted by the Tamu Dhee UK samaj. Of course we said a big Yes to Mr Coleman’s wonderful suggestion. The Cup was subsequently displayed that year and subsequently. A symbolic gesture from the FA of important kind.
  • n the final weeks before the match, the FA reached out to the UKNFS to ask for our support on Nepal-side assistance in regard to guidance to the given ANFA officer in regard to visa application matters. This, as British Embassy and FA and ANFA communication records testify we provided directly through organisation lead Alan Mercel-Sanca, and in particular the UKNFS Chief Advisor Mr Hiradhan Rai. Coordinated UKNFS, FA, and Aldershot Town FC support in this crucial area provided the necessary outcomes, enabling today’s match and the broader Nepal National Football Team and ANFA UK visit programme.

Legacy outcomes from the match – UKNFS view regarding purposes of its key work in support for enablement of the match:

As well as the answering the call from both Nepali community and subsequently FA and related sides support requested from the UK Nepal Friendship Society, we were particularly motivated to provide that support from the motivation of seeing how powerfully a friendly international match would be to assist in both counteraction of racism and for enhanced integration.

Alan Mercel-Sanca, lead of the UKNFS in fact established initial connection with the FA some 2-3 years before the organisation was requested by the UK Nepali footballing community (specifically the Sahara UK samaj) to support enablement of the friendly international match, though working with the FA Equality Manager of that time, Mr Kevin Coleman.  This through an introduction enabled by the Equality Lead at AFC Bournemouth.

A central part of the discussion that was held concerned the unique nature of the Nepali football phenomenon in being rooted in the Gurkha and therefore British Army connection, and how in the context of the power of the game of football bringing people of all cultures, ethnicities, and sections of society, awareness of this fact being properly raised, accompanied by information resources about the Nepali and Nepali-Gurkha community, could be a powerful antidote to racism and prejudice (please see one of our UKNFS interventions:, and of course for more effective integration.

These were the special factors that would make an England C Team and Nepal National Football Team friendly international match especially important.

That match has today taken place, and we/the UKNFS believe it will provide an effective moment in football and Nepal – British special relations, to enable the FA, county FAs, the Football Supporters Association (FSA), Kick it Out, and especially local authorities with Nepali community organisations to take the next steps. 

Little known generally to date (but commended and deployed in a number of key directions from The Royal British Legion through to UK Government departments such as the DWP, the ONS, and far beyond), the UKNFS role regarding information resources about both the Nepali football phenomenon and about the Nepali-Gurkha community itself and its heritage which is closely woven into the fabric of British history, capitalises on this major potential.

In particular from its main UK Nepali Cultural Heritage resource ( with commendations, including from the Prime Minister of Nepal, the President of The Royal British Legion, and the Head of the National League System of the FA, first of its kind a short history of the Nepali football phenomenon from origins to currently, has been developed (the different sections can be accessed from UKNFS representation to the National Football Museum (Manchester), with strong support from Mr Kevin Coleman, led to discussions with the museum on how such resources could provide a template for other ethnic minority communities football participation histories. 

Subsequently the NFM took this forward with appointing of a dedicated officer to oversee collation of such information resources, set against the backdrop of recognising and celebrating the role all diverse communities have had and have in contributing to the broader story of football itself.

The UKNFS/Nepali-Gurkha information resources have been the first in regard to this important initiative, and highly commended for educational impact for football for All by Mr Dal Singh Darroch, FA Board Member and lead for FA diversity and inclusion, and also by the leads of the Football Supporters Association, and Kick it Out. We still have to complete a requested from the NFM serialisation of the latter, but are delighted to announce this here on this very special day.