Nepali Football: Flight of Fancy and Lack of Focus

If you are out of Nepal and interested in football, there are chances you would be happy with the news that came in recently. That, the football governing body, ANFA is about to go abroad to scout players.

The football governing body announced that it is in process to find Nepali football talent that resides outside the political boundaries. For that, a team including Coach Jack Stefanowski and his assistant Richard Orloski are to travel around, to countries like Australia, UK, US and find out the standard of ‘Nepali’ players there. The idea is, if anybody who is under the law of the land, eligible to play for Nepal and has good skills, rope him in.

The idea is to find players for Under-16 and Under-19 teams too. There could be some logic in the argument, since we believe that the youth population is fast moving out of the country, in search of better opportunities.

The idea sounds good. In fact Afghanistan, Phillipines, and lately Bangladesh have tried that model and have been relatively successful. But, that’s how far as it goes. Till the conceptual level…

At the risk of sounding obnoxious, I’d like to ask a question: Who brings in these fancy ideas to ANFA? Or is it just a ploy to divert attention from more serious problems that Nepali football faces?

The answer could be yes. For now, I’d be happy to know if ANFA has any real plan, to overcome the dip that football has seen. More and more top flight clubs have expressed their difficulty in operating. One cannot but blame these clubs’ past and present leaders for their present status, but their inability to operate is a serious concern. For now, it would be difficult to imagine wiping out these clubs and have totally fresh structure.

One would take the fancy idea of finding players abroad, if there was some real substance in it. For one, it is difficult to find a lot of second generation Nepalis in the aforementioned countries. Not many Nepalis have been in these countries for long enough to have children who are interested in sports. It is not practical to think that Nepalis who’ve gone to these countries for their higher studies have time and means to be involved in any competitive sport, forget football. For them, it is an indulgence very few can afford. Yes, some Nepalis play football and other sport in these countries, but they are limited to weekend recreational activities. Among them, how easy is it to find young, budding talent, who can be brought back home and groomed to play for the national side in future.

Additionally, even if you happen to stumble upon a few (although with high degree of difficulty) exceptional talent, how would you lure them back to Nepal. Do we have enough resource to spend on them? Clichéd talk on nationalism and ‘playing-for-honour’ is not going to be of much help to retain them.

If you go back a few years, then Nepal coach Shyam Thapa had taken some initiatives to take a few young players to India so that they could be trained with better teams. The idea was to groom these players. Apparently, the ANFA leadership did not own up the idea and act on it.

The present push should have been to influence, coerce or negotiate with the top flight teams, so that they could focus on having youth academy. Experiences around the world have shown that concept of central academy in football doesn’t work anymore. For the simple reason that it only brews monotony and doesn’t help diversity. You wish ANFA would think on those lines and not throw fanciful ideas just for the consumption of gallery.

Will it? Difficult to say. If you don’t understand my difficulty, consider this example.

The football season has started with Gorkha Cup Football being held in the capital.

The runners-up of the A-Division league of mofussil, Sangam Club of Kaski was not called to play Gorkha Cup. Apart from the A-Division champions Munal Club, another club, the B-Division champions of the mofussil, Deshbhakta Club of Nawalparasi was included. The reason perhaps: Somebody up above in the ANFA doesn’t seem to personally fancy Sangam.

Now tell me, will the flight of fancy and lack of focus help Nepali football?

PS: This write-up appeared in yours truly’s weekly column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 25th of May, 2013

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