Have a start, got to score…

End of the year is always a time for stock taking. What weachieved in the year; Where we failed; How much could have been done and Howmuch is left.
But it’s also a time to think, what we could do more. As ayear ends, another one begins. That’s the beauty of time. That’s the beauty ofsport. After every year, another one has to follow. After every match, despitefailures, another is always in waiting. Life goes on.
But some years leave their mark. Some delible, someindelible. Nepali sport saw a few of those. Both of the popular team sport,Football and Cricket, saw changes. Both sport got new coaches, foreign bred,tested. Graham Roberts in Football and Pubudu Dassanayake in Cricket. Both aggressive in their own styles. Both deserving respect because of their pastdeeds. And if initial performances – especially the mindset of players – areanything to go by, both look capable enough to take their respective teams toanother level.
Coaches come and go. Their contribution is judged withperformance of their team, as long as they stay. But one thing that has longterm effect on the sport is its infrastructure. And that, thankfully, is likelyto change with the beginning of football’s National League.
All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) could not have chosen abetter time for the league, as it falls, right at the end of one year and startof another. This could be the best transition in football that we have seenyet. It has been long that centralized structure of football has beencriticized in Nepal and rightly so. The game’s structure has hardly given muchto the players from out of the valley to ply their trade. Since the leagues,for years, have been played only among clubs of the capital, it has made theplayers from countryside toil harder to make the cut. Likewise, the fan base ofthe game has also dwindled. This has been seen several times in Dashrathstadium, which has had to host close to hundred matches a year. Apart frommatches where some big clubs play, spectators have refused to come to the stadium.One visit to Dharan, where Budha Subba Gold Cup is held, and Pokhara, whereSahara Cup is held, is good enough to show you how much football is lovedoutside capital. The fan base is there, and unless they see their teams playingat the biggest stage possible at the national level, European football willtake them away from Nepali football.
Although ANFA hails it as the first ever National League,football pundits would remember that such similar tourneys were held in 1998and 1999. In these two editions, four clubs from mofussil played with thebiggest clubs in Nepal. ValleySporting from Pokhara and Munal Club from Jhapa had participated in 1998. In1999, The Boys Group from Dharan and another club from Rupandehi participatedin 1999. The Police Club took the title on both occasions, but if you askplayers from these four clubs about the best experience they’ve had on footballfield, they’d tell you these tourneys meant a lot for them. They played withwho’s who of Nepali football, and after the matches, they came back richer inexperience, skill and temperament. Everyone associated with the sport will tellyou, there’s nothing like playing at the highest level. No matter how muchdrills you have, it’s nothing compared to match practice.
Mitra Milan Club of Dharan and Sangam from Pokhara have thepotential to change the game forever in Nepal. If they play hard, whichfootball lovers would want them to, they might register a strong case in favorof matches being played out of Kathmandu more often. There could be a strongcase of having home and away matches right now, but at least this is a start.
This would be a very good opportunity for football fans inPokhara and Butwal to enjoy nation’s best footballers showcasing their skills.It should, but doesn’t happen very often in Nepal. So fans, as the New Yearbegins, go to the stadia not only to enjoy matches, but to make sure you put upa strong case that there are venues outside capital for football in Nepal.
The league is being organized outside the valley, sincecapital’s venues are being readied for AFC Challenge Cup. Hopefully, ANFAorganizes more such tourneys outside, even when the stadia in the capital arein good shape.

If that happens, weknow for sure, Nepali sport will be happy in the coming years.

(This post, unlike other posts on Sports by yours truly, did not appear in anywhere and is exclusive on Verma’s Perspective)
Pic courtesy: cricketfootball.com

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