A popular topic among Nepali football enthusiasts is the viability of a national football league.
Virtually every country in the world holds a national league, but in Nepal our football league basically is a championship for Kathmandu valley based clubs. As a result 90% of the country is deprived of the opportunity to witness top level football on a regular basis. Clubs are the heart of football, so with 90% of the country lacking a first division club the pulse of Nepali football is a flat-line.
Is a true national league currently possible? I do not believe so under the current football model and here is why:
1 ) Organization – ANFA has a difficult enough time organizing the Martyr’s League, so to think they can manage a national league with multiple stadiums and all sorts of scheduling and logistical issues (transportation, accommodation, security, marketing, etc.) is pure fantasy. To imagine a national league we need to presume we are in a parallel universe where ANFA is well run organization with professional people at the helm.
2 ) Manpower – A national league would require games being held in different cities on the same weekends. Therefore a league with clubs from Pokhara, Dharan and Kathmandu would require at least 3 sets of referees, 6 match commissioners, 3 referee assessors,3 sets of medical staff, etc. Shamefully, Nepal does not have that many well trained football officials.
3 ) Transport – Nepali roads are terrible and flying a team is too expensive. If you add in roadblocks, landslides, floods, bandhs – travelling to different cities on a weekly basis could potentially be a nightmare.
4 ) Kathmandu factor - Nepali football is not a fulltime occupation for most of our officials, coaches, players and referees. Many players are also students at various colleges around Kathmandu. Lot of the coaches also work at well paying private schools as sports teachers. Almost all officials run small businesses. Families of football persons are also deeply entrenched in Kathmandu. Therefore to have a competitive national league it will require a lot of people to dislodge themselves from Kathmandu which will not happen unless the national league is very lucrative.
5 ) Politics – Adding teams from places like Pokhara and Dharan directly into the first division will be met with fierce resistance from second and third division clubs.
However there is a roadmap for a national league under the current model that is a bit of a long-shot (primarily because ANFA still needs to resolve issues 1 and 2) but may just work:
A) Cut down the league to 10 teams (there are 18 clubs now) so that there is an honest chance of having games played exclusively on weekends. (With more than 10 teams, the season will be too long to just play on the weekends as Nepal cannot currently sustain a league that goes over 4 months.
B) Have APF play their “home” games at Halchowk Ground to get everyone used to having games at multiple stadiums.
C) Limit the National League to Pokhara and Chitwan and possibly Butwal – cities that are relatively close to Kathmandu and that would slightly mitigate transportation risks.
D) Move Army and Police to Pokhara and Chitwan/Butwal and make those their permanent home. As players and staff of department sides must obey orders they have little option but to accept relocating outside of Kathmandu. Also both Army and Police will have training centers in the two cities, which will help lessen logistical issues.
All this would lead to an 18 week (4 months) weekend league with 7 Teams playing at Dasharath Rangasala, APF at Halchowk, Army based in Pokhara and Police in Chitwan/Butwal. At most there will be 4 games a week at Rangasala (2 on Saturday, 2 on Sunday). Teams would have at least 4 days to rest from any trips to Pokhara or Chitwan/Butwal.
(With inputs from Purushottam Kattel)
* Comments Are Most Welcome...
GoalNepal.com's exclusive columnist, Biplav Gautam is a former Development Officer of the Asian Football Confederation. You can find his Nepal Sports Blog at www.rangasala.com