Minister for Sports Jagat Bishwokarma pays final tribute to ex-footballer Mani Bikram Shah at the Dasharath Stadium in Tripureshwar, Kathmandu on Tuesday. Photo: Keshab Thokker/Republica
KATHMANDU, May 16: Superstar of 1993 South Asian Games (SAG) and former Nepal midfielder Mani Bikram Shah’s body was cremated on Tuesday.
He died at 51, succumbing to a long fight against a liver disease, on Monday. He was admitted to Norvic Hospital on Sunday after his health deteriorated.
Shah’s late body was kept at the Dasharath Stadium at Tripureshwar to offer condolence to him. Minister for Youth and Sports Jagat Bahadur Bishwakarma, Member Secretary of the National Sports Council (NSC) Keshav Kumar Bista, and former Nepali captain Sagar Thapa, Anil Gurung, former vice-captain Sandeep Rai, and the current national team captain Biraj Maharjan were present on the cremating ceremony of Shah.
Minister Bishwakarma draped his body with the national flag, while the Vice President of the Nepal Olympic Committee (NOC) Tendi Sherpa draped his body with the Olympic flag.
Province 3 Governor Anuradha Koirala, Nepali Congress leaders Sher Bahadur Deuba, Prakash Man Singh, Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar, and Gagan Thapa were present on the cremating ceremony.
Likewise, CPN-UML leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal and Purshottam Paudel, along with the former All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) President Ganesh Thapa reached the stadium to express their condolences.
Bista, issuing a condolence note, stated that the great footballer’s death has stunned not only the Nepali sports sector but the entire country.
“Shah, who made his mark in the South Asian football as one of the best players of the region, and made Nepal proud in the world, is a source of inspiration to Nepali footballers. Nepal won the gold medal in the sixth SAG in 1993 with Shah’s brilliant performance. His important contribution is still fresh in the memories of Nepali sports lovers,’’ the note stated.
Shah, a superstar in his playing career, worked as a manager in his later years.
Shah had represented Nepal for over a decade, from 1985 to 1998, after making his debut at the age of 17 in the second edition of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF). He was often compared with Argentine legend Diego Maradona for his football talent that was on display each time he stepped on the ground, and was popularly called ‘Maradona of Nepali football’.
Shah’s dramatic picture-perfect free-kick in the final of the sixth SAFF Championship in 1993 helped Nepal comeback from a 2-1 deficit to win in penalties 4-3 to give Nepal a gold medal. This was the last gold medal that Nepal won in the game.
He was felicitated by the Rupak Memorial Award in 2005. He is mainly remembered for his contributions for Laxmi Hyundai Manang Marshyangdi Club. However, he has played for Ruslan Three Star Club, Ranipokhari Corner Team (RCT) and Nepal Airlines Corporation throughout his career.
He was known for his pin-point passes. He was good at dead-ball situations as well, which made him a thorn for the opponents every minute of the game he was on the ground. The left-footed playmaker was versatile in both midfield and forward positions. He was applauded by the opponents for the ‘no-nervous’ and ‘high-dominating-power’ characters he showed on the pitch.
A glorious career by a notorious episode, Shah was once banned by the ANFA along with four other players for an on-field mishap between Three Star and Thamel XI players. He was immediately roped in by the national selectors for U-16 Prince Cup in 1983 after Nepal qualified for the marquee event at that time. He soon flew to Thailand. In 1984, he again represented Nepal in foreign lands.
Asian Games 1998 was his last appearance as a football player. He also served the Nepal national football team as the captain carrying the national flag in the pre-tournament march-pass function.