Of Diminishing returns and Hopes
The past week was notable one for Nepali sports, where the two most popular team games in the country kept its viewers glued to news.
Our national cricket team, for all we might have written, showed us how inadequate we are, assessing our opponents. At the risk of vilifying our cricketers, we must say, we proved to be inadequate in our batting and the boys’ temperament at foreign venues.
It must be said that the problems lie more in the boys’ temperament than the skills because USA, Italy, Cayman Islands, Argentina or Tanzania – who are playing in the World Cricket League Division 4 – are not a better team than ours, but are equals. The chinks in the batting line-up and their mental make-up have been exposed, and probably needs a careful dissection now, before it is too late. Already, the bunch of cricketers who participated at the Youth World Cup in 2002 in New Zealand and won quite a lot of accolades there, are ageing, and do not look a certainty in the line-up two years from now. Some of them are on the way out, due to diminishing returns they’ve shown lately, despite a bright start to their cricketing career.
The other and potentially promising was the story of football. The governing body of football in Nepal, ANFA, has announced its calendar for two years. But, as most our football stories go, it is potentially promising. And like every potentially promising movie, it also has chances of becoming a dud at the box-office.
The most promising part of the story was organizing a National League next year. For many football fans it may have come as a relief, as it was announced earlier, but due to ‘various reasons’, as ANFA statement read, the national league looked like never coming. For that at least, ANFA deserves to be praised – Better late than never.
The National League is to be played by top 10 teams within the country. And the most interesting concept in it is the introduction of ‘Home and Away’ games. The idea would sound great to the football romantics, as it also shows some intent on the part of ANFA that football in years to come, would be decentralized. This is one good way to expand the fan base of football, which already faces challenge from cricket fans, to the rural parts too. The bigger the fan base, the more number of youngsters would be trying to learn the game. The bigger the young player base, the better the competition. The better the competition, better would be the players representing the country. In long term, the idea would definitely bring in results, given everything goes the way fans dream of.
The announcement is definitely a move ahead from the status quo. This is one plan that aims to include clubs from outside the valley, make football more democratic. But there are several questions that spring up to the mind, even before championship is yet to be held.
The problem is, hardly much goes the way fans dream of, especially in Nepali football. In this plan too, there is every likelihood that it may not. Although a step in the right direction, ‘Home and Away’ is a tough management issue. It means more responsibility, more delegation of authority within the football governing body, and a challenge to bring in spectators to the stadium. The quality and the conditions of stadia out of the valley are not hidden from anyone. While many are used as grazing spot for uncared domestic animals, others are used for political purposed round the year. We cannot forget how many matches were played at the Dashrath stadium in Shahid Smarak League last time, and what became of the standard of game once the grass started to refuse to resurface, fearing pounding from boots round the clock, for weeks on end. The other question is – How many teams have their own grounds to make it ‘Home and Away’? Perhaps you don’t even need to answer that.
Apart from the issue of the grounds, to manage National league, on the format that ANFA has promised, ANFA needs to restructure. The opaque working style and highly centralized character of the game’s governing body is an impediment to make the game decentralized, and expanding its base. More and more people need to be involved in the decision making process, if we want to see ‘smarter’ decisions.
ANFA has kept the budget at 37.5 million, which looks like a little less money, given what it wants to achieve. The football fanatics fear that ANFA may say tomorrow that money wasn’t enough to meet all the objectives stated.
But then, are we going to forgive it?