An Experiment Called Football

 Nepali football fans have a moment of excitement as the Martyrs Memorial A division league has started in the capital. But just as the excitement builds up with 16 teams playing each other over a period of 3-4 months, some teams and their fans may not be such a happy lot.

When Mitra Milan Club of Dharan and Sangam Club of Pokhara were to play in the National League – bringing in 8 teams from capital and 2 teams from outside, following the A division League – last year, it brought in a lot of hope. It was hailed as an effort of bridging gap between teams from the capital and those from mofussil, which exists for real. But this year, they have been dropped and will not be playing in the championship, owing to their poor showing last year. While it is saddening for those clubs and their fans, it also raises questions in the minds who worry about Nepali football in general.

Penalizing for poor showing is understandable and has to be done to ensure results. But, can one decide, just after one championship, that these teams are not worthy of playing at the level? And again, if only teams from capital are playing, can we really call it a national league? It is notable that the Martyr’s Memorial A division League was supposed to be the capital’s league and similar kind of leagues to be played in mofussil to decide on top two teams. Again the absurdity here was that teams like Koilapani Polestar and Birgunj Academy played in A division league, despite not being from the capital.

Now these incidences explain that Nepali football is not really being planned, or at least, there is some problem with those who plan Nepali football. An example could be made from the point that in the last 12 leagues that we have had, they have been played in 9 different formats. Single round-robin, double round-robin, super league, teams classified into groups, you name one we have got it all. All, as football governing body had been led by one person – Ganesh Thapa. Sadly, football, or at least the A division leagues have been one experiment after the other.

Nepal’s only international football stadium, Dashrath Stadium, during an international match featuring Nepal Team. Photo: Self

The purpose of these columns is not to question the leadership – for we have seen some developments during his reign as well – but the thinking process that runs the football governing body of Nepal. Good results are often a function of consistency in planning. And planning is a process that involves thinking, a lot of it. If you look at the activities, that seems to be lacking here. Nepali football would do better if process is followed right.

The last time we saw a plan from ANFA was way back in 1998-99, when ANFA Academy was formed. That time ANFA hailed it as a basis through which Nepal could play Youth World Cup. Although the plan was laughed at during those days, it was a plan. Yet the plan was not implemented whole heartedly.

It would be wrong to say that entire blame is ANFA’s, for it is a mere governing body, and there are other actors too in football. The football clubs have not been a good job either. If you look at bigger clubs like 3 Star and Manang Marshyangdi these days, they can hardly boast of their own product playing in their XI. Barring some teams, most have not been able to build on their fan base. All as these teams boast of spending around a million rupees a year.

An incident would make a lot of sense here. In a match at the A division League in 2010, NRT scored a goal against one of the other top clubs in the nation. Apart from the players, there were only two people cheering for the goal, at the stands. One was club’s general secretary, the other was a player’s mother. If you feel the incident is laughable, you might as well be sorry for it. It also tells you the dwindling fan base of Kathmandu based clubs. If nothing is done to correct it, the end of the road is not far away.

In a recent press conference, ANFA President Ganesh Thapa equated himself with Nepali football. You might agree with it, if he takes the responsibility to do his experiments right.

(An afterthought: Despite Ganesh Thapa’s weaknesses and whimsical decisions, Nepali Football doesn’t seem to have his replacement. So, the challenge is also to look beyond him.)

PS: This write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 24th November, 2012

 

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