Restoring the Beautiful Game…

Imagine that yours truly invites you over at his place, for dinner, coffee or just like that. And just after pleasantries are exchanged, he manhandles you, for not dressing up for the occasion. How would you feel? Insulted? Humiliated? Hurt?

If your answer is yes, then you can empathize with the coach of Three Star FC, Meghraj KC, who must be feeling the same, after being manhandled in Butwal. Interestingly, the person who manhandled was not from opposing team, MMC, but one of the hosts – a member of Rupandehi Football Association, the organizers of this leg of National League.

The story unfolded like this: Three Star player, Bijay Dhimal had to leave the ground, following second yellow card. He kicked a water bottle which went towards spectators. Spectators, on their part, started throwing more bottles towards Three Star player box. During the debate between the organizers and club officials, Secretary of Rupandehi Football Association manhandled Three Star coach.

KC cried foul in the post match conference. His fellow coaches, Hari Om Shrestha of Manang Marshyangdi, and Birat Krishna Shrestha of eventual league winners, Nepal Police Club, said it was unacceptable. KC went to the extent of saying that he would never bring his boys to play in that ground. The president of organizing association and ANFA central member, Hari Shrestha regretted the incident and said they will put an effort so that such incident is not repeated in future.

The whole episode has raised a few question marks. That of security of club officials, that of general indiscipline and lack of knowledge from the part of organizers. It would be worthwhile to remember that the League was already tainted due to violence on the pitch in the match between MMC and RCT, which saw unprecedented 5 red cards shown to the players.

Now the question would be: What do we do with the officials who resort to violence? When players have manhandled Referees during scuffle on the pitch, in Nepal, they have received a ban of minimum one year. Ask Bishnu Sunuwar, who, while playing for Brigade boys in 2006, was banned for more than a year after such incident. Or for that matter Pravin Karki of Three Star, or Binod Shahi of RCT, who was guilty of similar misconduct a couple of years ago. They might tell you, they now feel they were wrongly dealt with, because the officials, who decide on disciplinary breach, are doing it themselves.

The question should be: Why not a ban on officials? Why did the organizers not go ahead and say that he would suspend the official in question? Or, ANFA for that matter? Would that be too harsh a decision? Of course not, the officials have to be accountable to their performance too. They ought to keep the game sacrosanct.

In the defense of Bhandari, the prime accused in the case, it may be said that KC might have said something offensive to prompt such an action. But even then, violence cannot be excused. We might remember World Cup 2006, when one of the all time great footballers Zinedine Zidane was sent off in the 110th minute of the game after headbutting Marco Materazzi – who had apparently insulted his sister. Italy won the World Cup eventually and entire world said Zidane was wrong. In 2010, Zidane himself admitted that he “could never have lived with himself” had he been allowed to remain on the pitch after the incident. That’s discipline for you. And officials should NOT be exempt from it. How else can they talk of discipline with a player?

Also, ANFA, which is supposed to handle the governance part of football in the country, could do well by training the officials from every nook and corner of the country, on conduct.

Action has to be taken also to restore the pride of Rupandehi Football Association, which has proud 3-decade history of organizing one of the elite tournaments in the country, Tilottama Gold Cup, where top teams from Nepal and from other countries have played.

Moreover, this is also home to one of the Gentlemen footballers we’ve had, Basanta Thapa. To restore the beautiful game and discipline, strong action against offenders has to be taken.

(PS: The write-upappeared in Yours Truly’s weekly sports column – OFFSIDE – in The KathmanduPost, on 21st January, 2012)

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