KATHMANDU, Feb 8: Guiding star studded Three Star Club to the top of Martyrs Memorial Red Bull A Division League, Coach Pradeep Humagain catapulted Patan-based club to cloud nine lifting the prestigious Aaha-Rara Gold Cup in Pokhara and Udayapur Gold Cup during the break of the league.
The super-eight round of the league will resume one-and-a-half months later, when Three Star could enjoy its seven-point lead over the second placed Army Club. However, numerous critics have not stopped dubbing Humagain´s success in the league a fluke.
Three Star´s performances in Pokhara and Udayapur silenced the critics for a while. Leaving star players like Santosh Sahukhal, Bijay Gurung, Sandeep Rai, Kiran Chemjong, Biraj Maharjan and four others for the national squad, Humagain guided his side to the two title victories within a week´s time.
“As a league leader we are under pressure and my focus is to seek consistency from players,” said Humagain. “I´ve a lot to learn and I´ve a lot to prove,” he added.
Humagain was a lesser known player and coach until he took the coaching responsibility of Three Star.
Pradeep Humagain (Photo: Bikash Karki)
After completing his +2 education from India, Humagain joined Kathmandu Club and played in the Khukuri Cup Football Tournament held in Nepalgunj in 2057 BS.
However, he discontinued playing football to focus on education. He joined Ranipokhari Corner Team (RCT) for the Birthday Cup football tournament in 2058 BS. His playing career had ended there.
He tried politics and was elected president of Free Student Union of Kathmandu Shiksha Campus. After a few years, he gave up political career as well. He completed his master degree in health education, sociology and physical education in the meantime.
“Professor Ram Krishna Maharjan advised me to pursue physical education as he came to know about my interest in sports, especially in football,” said Humagain.
“After completing masters in physical education, I conducted research on footballers and this academic work again drew my attention toward football by the end of 2010,” he added.
Humagain joined Kathmandu University High School as a physical education teacher and coached the girls´ football team there. He guided the girls´ team to two title victories. The girls´ team also played in the Norway Cup, a football festival in Oslo, in 2012.
“I had conducted a research on the performance of Nepali football players at the national and club level. To conduct the research, I had taken help from former national team captain Upendra Man Singh, when he was coaching Himalayan Sherpa Club,” said Humagain. “All these activities ultimately drew me to football,” he added.
He attended AFC Grassroots Coaching Course at first in 2012 and completed AFC Future Course, the C-license coaching course.
“My research, though not so significant, and coaching courses gave a boost to my career,” said Humagain. “Some of my friends advised me to start coaching career from B division while I tried to work under renowned Nepali coaches like Krishna Thapa and others as assistant,” he added.
Finally, Three Star and its former coach Megharaj KC agreed to recruit him as an assistant in August 2012, just before the Ncell Cup. “I was happy to attend training sessions, know players and learn from Megharaj dai (KC),” recalled Humagain.
Three Star played 1-1 draw against Iceberg Madhyapur Youth Association and suffered a 1-0 defeat with Friends Club in the first two matches of the Ncell Cup. KC resigned as the coach and the club president Lalit Krishna Shrestha asked Humagain to take charge. “I was surprised when Lalit sir (Shrestha) made the announcement. We were out of the tournament but we played 1-1 draw against APF in that match,” recalled Humagain.
“Right after the Ncell Cup, we were to visit Sikkim to play the Governor´s Gold Cup. I was not well-acquainted with the players in the team. I befriended every player and senior players cooperated well,” he added.
Three Star reached the final of the Governor´s Gold Cup but failed to lift the title. “I had a thought that the club would recruit a well reputed coach for the league but they gave me a break,” said Humagain. “I was confident at the same time knew that I was not experienced enough to coach star players,” he added.
He befriended players, analyzed matches and discussed match-strategies with players not only to win the players´ heart but also to get the best from them.
Humagain, 33-year old from Kusadevi, Kavre, is humble despite his recent success and accepts he is a beginner. “I have a desire to learn football. If I get a chance to gain football knowledge by attending informal or academic courses, I´ll jump to it,” said Humagain.
“My ultimate aim is to be a scholar in the area of football,” he added.
Humagain dreams to go a long way but his current goals are to help Three Star maintain winning rhythm in the super-eight round of the league and to win as many knockout tournaments as possible.