Poor ANFA. By far the most active and networked sports federation in Nepal just can’t seem to get it right. Despite all of ANFA’s best efforts Nepal’s national teams continue to time after time come up short in international competitions.
It’s been 18 long years since Nepal achieved a noteworthy result in a tournament of real significance. The AFC Under-22 qualifiers is but the latest event at which a Nepali national team flamed out on the big stage.
Despite home field advantage, over a months closed-camp training and better benefits than what players of old could dream of receiving, Nepal’s U22s went down to a very mediocre Yemen side and above average Jordanian and Uzbek teams. They did demolish the Bangladeshis, though the fact that all four goals of a traditionally diminutive Nepali side came from headers raises serious questions about the strength of the opposition.
As always after a tournament most are quick to second-guess the coaching, the preparations and the players. Already many are pointing to the lack of friendly matches leading-up to the U22 qualifiers as the culprit. Which is odd because Nepal actually won its first game 4-1 and put on a fairly formidable performance in its second match against Yemen, so it is not like it took a few matches for Nepal to gain its form.
Anyway, these types of micro-analysis are just distractions. What needs to actually be analyzed is not the reasons Nepal failed in this particular tournament, but why Nepali football has been underperforming for 18 years despite an amazing amount of passion and support for soccer in the country.
Why is it that even with the establishment of ANFA Academy, regular club tournaments, several youth competitions and all sorts of rewards and prizes for players Nepal’s international record has not improved?
The problem is that while ANFA may work hard, they do not work smart. They have been trying to develop a “special sauce” that will take Nepali football to the next level but unfortunately that “special sauce” has been leaving nothing but a bad taste in the mouths of Nepali football fans.
What ANFA needs to do is Google for the right recipe! Instead of trying to create their own “special sauce” it would make far more sense for ANFA to simply choose a tried and tested formula.
In todays information age the best practices in world football are accessible to everyone with just a few clicks on the computer. It is therefore absolutely puzzling to see ANFA so hell bent on doing things their own way instead of just copying what has proven to work around the world.
If ANFA started to Google, what they would find is that:
• To create top class players you need top class coaches
• To have a large pool of talents for the National Teams, players need to be training regularly with their clubs
• Club leagues should be 8-10 months long and played on weekends
• A football match is a product and fans are the consumers and thus should be treated as such
• A strong mass base of kids playing football is essential to unearth top quality players
• Youth football starts as early as age 5 or 6
• Selection for youth teams needs to be dynamic and not static
On the other hand:
• Selecting a player at age 12 and hoping one day he will become the next Xavi does not work
• A 3 month long club league along with a bunch of Mickey-Mouse tournaments does not work
• A president of a football association sitting on the players bench does not work
Pointing the finger at ANFA is convenient but this argument can easily be extended to all stakeholders in Nepali football including clubs, sports media and fans, all of whom also have failed to adopt many of football’s best practices.
So the next time ANFA or other Nepali football stakeholders start devising their “special sauce” hopefully it will be in front of a computer and not on the back of a napkin.
Biplav Gautam is GoalNepal.com's Exclusive columnist, an Asian and Nepali soccer insider, youth sports advocate and FIFA Master (CIES) alumnus. You can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rangashala