By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax, VA
The sporting spectacle is a bonanza for sport enthusiasts who worship the most popular sport in the planet. The unprecedented exhilaration and excitement in the air is palpable.
One of the most identifiable and recognizable landmarks in the capital is “Dasarath Rangasala (stadium)”, the main venue for the competition. Like an old lady it is getting a lavish makeup, never seen before.
When all is said and done, come 8 March, the historical arena that has been home to innumerable sporting and public events , music extravaganzas, parades and many more, over the decades, will come alive again.
With time running out, the work undertaken by All Nepal Football Association (ANFA), the organizer of the prestigious tournament is taking place at a fast and furious pace.
The playing pitch that often is in a state of shambles (riddled with pot holes, jagged, muddled and mud-spattered) now looks sparkling lush green in pictures at least. So does the Halchowk ground.
The defunct flood lights at the stadium have been finally brought back to life and being tested for its effectiveness, following the decision to hold semi-finals and final under the lights. The organizer fully aware of the ongoing blackout sessions in the Valley is not taking any risk of power outages during the course of the game.
As a backup they have installed a massive expensive 500 KW generator, a well thought out decision. Without a doubt, the cost to host a tournament of this proportion and magnitude runs into millions.
All in all, this is going to be a great and fascinating event. And a football championship of this scale is taking place in the capital after a considerable period of time. A dime-a-dozen international tourneys we witnessed in the past pales in comparison.
ANFA, obviously, as a host/organizer wants to make an impression on no other than FIFA boss Joseph Sepp Blatter who will be in Kathmandu for the tournament.
It is a good thing that Mr. Blatter accepted the invitation. If he is interested he would have the luxury to get a firsthand account (in parts) of Nepali football in a nutshell at the most. We will have to wait and see, how his visit materializes and how much ANFA is able to benefit.
There is no inkling that ANFA is good at organizing international tournaments. I agree, be it domestic or international tournaments, it is indispensible and an important tool to advance and promote the game.
My contention is that had they displayed similar passion, eagerness, seriousness and honesty to develop the game, perhaps the state of Nepali football would have had a healthier look now.
Speaking of management and security issues related to the upcoming tournament, ANFA must leave no stone unturned.
Back to the AFC championship, Nepal’s performance will be under the spotlight. The million dollar question is: can Coach Roberts’ boys come up with a decent performance? Honestly speaking at this point I am clueless.
Long as the youngsters put their hearts and minds into every match, they are with a chance to exceed expectations. Equally important is that they play their natural game, maintain a high level of consistency and composure, and make the most of scoring opportunities.
The boys appear all pumped up and fired up for the big challenge. It is very important that they get off to a really good start not only to establish early momentum but to gain extra confidence as well.
The opener against Palestine is crucial and decisive, and I am optimistic about our chances. Boys, believe in yourselves and play your heart out.
Thapa is a senior Sports Journalist based in USA.