Sabitra Bhandari – A Nepali Football Trailblazer

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From breaking records to winning International league titles and playing in the European League, Sabitra Bhandari, popularly known as SAMBAA, has done it all at the age of 27.

Sabitra Bhandari, born in Lamjung, Nepal, into a family of six children, started her journey in football playing barefoot with a makeshift ball made from socks. She used to play in local games, usually with boys, and had always stood out with her exceptional skills. 

In 2014, Sabitra came to Kathmandu with a mere Rs. 5000 in her pocket to give trials for the Armed Police Force (APF) team. She bought her first pair of football shoes for Rs. 3000 and used the remaining money for food and travel. Sabitra says “I used to walk to my training center to save Rs. 10 bus fare to buy a banana for my diet.” She was on trial for months with no income before she was offered a contract with APF and started training with them. Despite all the challenges, the young girl braved her way to her biggest dreams as she was called for the National team later that year, making her international debut with a memorable goal. Her talent transcended borders and ventured into the Indian football scene in 2018, representing clubs like Gokulam Kerala FC and Sethu FC, where she played a pivotal role in clinching league titles and capturing the hearts of Nepali as well as Indian crowd with her electrifying performances.

Holding the title of the highest-scoring Nepali woman footballer with 38 goals, Sambaa has now created history by becoming the first Nepali player to play in the European league. Samba’s move to En Avant Guingamp, a French team has opened doors to Nepali footballers of the next generation.

Recently, Sambaa’s extraordinary journey garnered international recognition when a popular news outlet, The Guardian featured her story, shedding light on her groundbreaking achievements and the challenges she overcame along the way. From breaking through patriarchal barriers to navigating economic hardships, her success is a testament to her resilience and continuous dedication to the sport. In celebrating Sabitra Bhandari’s triumphs, we not only honor her skills and dedication but also recognize the limitless potential of Nepali athletes on the global stage. Her story serves as an inspiration to aspiring footballers worldwide!

In 2020, WE United got an opportunity to talk to Sabitra for Extra Time with WE United, a series of interview with women we admire, women who are breaking barriers, and women who are inspiring younger girls and other women to empower themselves.

During our inspiring conversation with her, she emphasized on the significance of having women coaches. Seeing female coaches allows girls to imagine themselves in leadership positions and dream about what is possible for women in sports. 

Sambaa, Nepal’s formidable striker says, “Female coaches are important because they send a positive message to the players; how amazing it is to see a woman challenging gender stereotypes and becoming a Coach.” 


Photo Credit: En Avant Guingamp / Online Khabar