Madhyapur Youth Association is in the relegation zone, in the Sahid Smarak A Division League. And in all probability – unless something miraculous happens – this team will see themselves playing B Division football very soon.
Despite my belief that competition in any sport, at any level, should be top notch, I would be sad to see Madhyapur’s exit. For Madhyapur, given its brand of football, was one bright aspect of this season’s football. This is one team that made A Division competitions richer by ascending to the top league. This is one team that needed to stay in the league, for the game benefitted due to its presence there.
The first of the reasons is its fans. It is no news that Madhyapur Youth Association (MYC) has collected the second largest sum from gate money – amount collected through spectators’ tickets – after Manang Marshyangdi Club. And Manang Marshyangdi, the six time league champions, is the club with most silverware collected in the A Division. It has a history unmatched by any other club. Much has been said in these columns about importance of spectators, or fans, for the game of football. The loyalty that they create, the stars they make, helps the game develop, improve and scale newer heights. This time around, no other club saw the brand loyalty shown by vociferous Madhyapur fans. For this reason alone – of keeping the crowd interest in the game – MYC needed to stay in the league.
The other reason, and perhaps more important is the structure Madhyapur Youth Association tried to develop. This is one club that tried to have a model of youth academy that most other reputed clubs cannot boast of. It selects promising players from the camps it conducts, gives them training the year round – including gears and diet – and helps them get admission in schools/colleges without the players having to pay. For trying to help football grow, MYC needed to stay in the league.
Interestingly, unlike many clubs that play at the top level, MYC doesn’t have a long history. It started as former Nepal captain Upendra Man Singh retired from the game (doesn’t seem too long ago, does it?) and wanted to give something back to the game and community that gave him so much. Circa 2006, Singh, collected a few locals who had passion for the game. His idea of a ‘social club’ with a motto of ‘Football for Education’ was aimed at keeping youth engaged in good social habits.
In a short time, hundreds of children gathered for a winter football camp, making Nepal’s ace ‘keeper dream of making a team that will travel as high as A Division. Despite humble beginnings, MYC rose like nothing else seen in Nepali football, showing if hard work is done, success can come fast.
Even the colors worn by this team from the smallest of Nepal’s district has been chosen well. The colors in the jersey – black and red – are a symbol of attire tradition of local women. Only a few weeks ago, I had heard that the team was looking to compose its own anthem, something that we’d never heard of in Nepali football.
But, in some ways, MYC is a victim of its own success. Having reached the final four in Ncell Cup, after beating Armed Police Club, in its first A Division season increased the expectations. Added to that were the norms of A Division, where money plays a crucial role. If you heed to the murmurs in football circle, some of the players from MYC were offered money to lose the match. Add to that MYC’s focus on home grown players, in a competition that’s more about winning matches than developing football. All these made things difficult for MYC to retain spot in the top league.
Almost at the exit door, MYC has saddened its fans. But they need to be lauded for bringing in freshness to Nepali football that had been missing for long. And for bringing in the spectators, who took an hour’s drive in public vehicle – in droves – to Dashrath stadium, Madhyapur Youth Association needs to be lauded. And it makes me sad to know they might not be in next A Division season.
(PS: This write-up appeared in yours truly’s weekly column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 12th January 2013)