Nepal has failed to move beyond the first round of AFC Challenge Cup. To be fair to the players in the present team, it should be added that the team hasn’t moved beyond first round, whenever it has played on the home soil.
Is it jinx? Or is it the effect of double edged sword called home crowd? Maybe, neither… Maybe it is the preparation the team has had, both times. Maybe it is lack of realization on our part that world football is dynamic and we are stagnant. Maybe it is a time we realize we haven’t won any international title in past two decades.
You’d be forced to think that the preparation has not been too good for Nepali team. Being blanked 2-0 by half prepared Bangladesh (it’s Dutch coach Lodewijk Darius Ke Kruif had admitted of having prepared for 10 days only), and not being able to score against an almost-second string Palestine (it did not have 7 players of first choice) does not speak volumes about our team’s ability to perform. It becomes even worse, learning that Nepali team has scored only one goal in last 10 internationals (if you take out goal fest against Northern Mariana Island). Scoring well against Northern Mariana Island should not swell our pride (It may be a US dominion, but it’s not the same as beating US National team).
The chopping and changing of players in past few matches is something Nepal Coach Jack Stefanowski would be wary of. Going with 6 new faces in recent friendly against Pakistan and having new strike line-up in every single match of the AFC Challenge Cup hasn’t really helped. In his defense, one can say that he is new and lack of scoring by the front line, must have made him experiment. But risks at this level needs to be calculated ones, and one hopes Stefanowski knows that.
It is a common knowledge now that a cell phone was found by the referees during the match, thrown by one of the spectators, when Nepal played Bangladesh. A few coins were hurled during the match against Palestine too. Are these signs that our football spectators are well off, financially? On the contrary, yours truly believes that these are signs that our football spectators have proven to be very poor, mentally. These are certainly not the ways a fan expresses support for their team. Rather, these are the incidences which might be pointed out by AFC next time onwards, as reasons not to award any international matches to Nepal (we can’t forget that the ground condition was given as a reason for Nepal not getting to host final round of AFC Challenge Cup this time). It should also be reminded that fine was slapped on Nepal after similar incident in the 2010, when AFC U-19 qualifiers were being played.
It was hilarious when somebody pointed out to yours truly that Nepali footballers are to be richer by 50 grand each (awarded by ANFA), for not scoring a goal (NMI scores notwithstanding). Well, depending on which side you are, you could say that the footballers are richer for not conceding a goal against Palestine.
Monetary incentives are always a welcome thing in sport, especially in Nepal (for players are hardly millionaires here). However, it is difficult to expect result out of mere monetary incentives. Here’s an example: Imagine you have a child in Grade 10, appearing for SLC exams. You promise him/her a motorbike if they get distinction in the SLC. He/she is likely get the grades depending on how hard you’ve worked with them right from Grade 1, on how much time you’ve spent helping them with their homeworks, or how much you’ve labored trying to help them learn new things. Monetary (in this case, motorbike) would hardly help as motivating factor, if the basics have not been done right. The reward may improve the result only marginally, but not by leaps.
It’s more about the structure, and the years of hard work that is spent in making of a national team, giving them skills and improving their resistance. These are the building blocks that give you results. Otherwise, you might try to lure players by cash incentives, but they’d hardly work.
(PS: This write-up appeared in yours truly’s weekly column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 9th March 2013)