Where to, Nepali Football?

Nepali football sector must be a shocked lot these days. The reason: Crisis in New Road Team (NRT). The news of NRT being in financial crisis has jolted all who thought Nepali football is prospering.

You would have thought Nepali football is headed in right direction, after learning that Three Star Club bagged Rs 7.5 million for winning Shahid Smarak A Division League, Sagar Thapa pocketed an apartment for being the best player (by ANFA) and Sandip Rai drove a car home, for winning the Ncell best player of the year.

Huge awards these, enough to lift morale of footballers around the country. Awards to renowned players always inspire youngsters, for they want to emulate them. Credit has to be given to Three Star, Sagar Thapa and Sandip Rai for being able to live up to the expectations of their supporters.

But, just as these news were spreading and inspiring people, we learnt of huge financial losses of NRT. The Club had taken a loan of 10 million five years ago, and added 4 million more to the tally two years later. NRT, expecting to win the league, had contracted top players (read: expensive) to represent them. However, in the following years, A Division Clubs and football governing body ANFA were at loggerheads. A parallel football body was formed. As a result, there was no A Division League played for three seasons.

NRT Club

Along with NRT, Three Star, Jawalakhel and Friends Club had also invested good amount of money to strengthen their teams around the same year. But all their investment bore no fruit, due to lack of football activities in the country, they all suffered. And now, NRT has become the first casualty. And this is no small issue. Based on property, we are talking about perhaps (since financial transparency is a farfetched issue in sports clubs) the richest club of Nepal. Established around 1934, this is the oldest football club in Nepal that still exists. The Club has categorically said that it has not been able to pay back the principal amount taken as loan, and has been paying over Rs 2 million annually as mere interest. The Club has said that it cannot payback the amount, since it has to spend almost Rs 10 million to play in the top league. Now the bank is ready to blacklist the club, for not paying back.

This is a worry that most football enthusiasts would not know how to cope with. The other bad news: One of the other richest clubs of the country – Rani Pokhari Corner Team (RCT) – has hinted towards leaving football altogether, if the expenses continue to rise. For top flight clubs, the expenses during the League amounts anywhere between 6-10 million.

Now the interesting part is, in one of the meetings with top clubs, ANFA President Ganesh Thapa had promised compensation to them. At least that’s what these club officials would tell you. However, they have received no compensation – at least in this regard.

Around the same time that we learnt of NRT’s financial woes, an award ceremony was held: Rupak Memorial awards, where a total of 10 footballers were awarded. They received 100 thousand rupees along with a motorbike each. Now nobody should grudge these players any awards, but the question is: How much value does an award have, if it is mere distribution and the basis is not merit? Since nobody receives this award twice, it also questions ANFA’s motive – whether it is meant to be given for excellence or just a tool to make everyone happy. Four coaches were given the award. Baffling… Four best Coaches? Difficult to understand… Surendra Tamang was one of the beneficiaries. Nobody questions his contribution to Nepali football, but of late he’s been a shadow of himself and is struggling to find a club. If awards become mere benefit show for players who excelled in the past, it’s time to change the name and call it something else – not an award.

For National Pride: Afghan U-14 football team cheering for their cricket team, after Afghanistan won the ACC T20 Cup, beating Nepal.
For National Pride: Afghan U-14 football team cheering for their cricket team, after Afghanistan won the ACC T20 Cup, beating Nepal. Photo: Self

During ACC T20 Cricket championship, when Team Nepal was playing against Afghanistan, one sight caught everyone’s notice. It was Afghanistan U-14 football team – playing in AFC U-14 Championship in Kathmandu – coming to support their national cricket team in their full jersey. The message was clear: They had a stake in the Afghan pride.

On the same day, ANFA had organized a prize distribution ceremony, where some players were being given Rs 50,000 each. One would question: Was it only bad timing?

PS: This write-up appeared in yours truly’s weekly column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 20th April, 2013

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