News Million-dollar Question Is, How Does Nepal Football Overcome The Challenges?
Sushil Thapa

Unsurprisingly the men’s national football team of Nepal made a quick exit from the 14th edition of the South Asian Federation Football Championship in Bengaluru, India recently.

Definitely the setback was a huge disappointment for the team and fans alike. With the latest effort going in vain,Nepal’s frustration of not winning the South Asian Federation Football Championship (SAFFC) continues unabated. This time,however, Team Nepal went into the championship with low expectations as they clearly lacked match readiness to make an impact.

As a result, the odds were heavily stacked against them, and they stood very little chance of upsetting the apple cart. As a matter of fact, they were sans substantial match practice and underprepared for the tournament largely because of All Nepal Football Association’s (ANFA) gross mismanagement and incompetence. Would you believe it, the less-than-perfect build up for the championship was just a little over a week, which included a solitary friendly match against the Philippines.

The preparation was a shambles and hindered by the then ongoing Martyr’s Memorial ‘A’ Division League and refusal to release selected players for the SAFFC preparatory camp by respective clubs because of unresolved financial dispute between them and the football body. ANFA had all the time in the world to plan timely preparation for the regional tournament.The dispute with the clubs should have been addressed in time to avoid the impasse. It’s hard to comprehend why the football body deliberately turned a blind eye to insightful planning, timely and meaningful preparation and actions.

It is another classic case of poor management and failed leadership at the helm of ANFA. The new Italian Head Coach Vincenzo Alberto Annese admitted that the preparation was inadequate and players did not get enough time to play together as a team. The challenge in the SAFFC was bigger for Nepal as they were pitted against India, Kuwait and Pakistan in the same group. They were eliminated from the tournament,following successive defeats in the hands of Kuwait and India. However, Nepal wrapped up the championship with a consolation win over Pakistan. As always both the coaching staff and players had to bear the brunt of the blame for the lackluster performance and failure to deliver desired results.

What more can we expect from the football association that can't even properly plan and prepare the national team for a tournament. The way things are going, it is no exaggeration to say that Nepal football is not moving in the right direction with football standards plummeting further. You can judge it for yourself. ANFA President Pankaj Bikram Nembang has not delivered on his promises. His administration has failed to promote good governance, execute and implement policies effectively. So far he has proven to be no better than his predecessors who lacked leadership qualities.

No wonder, the state of football development in the country continues to stagnate to date There are no indications that football landscape is changing for the good under Mr. Nembang’s leadership, the scenario is unchanged and is far from healthy, robust and encouraging. There is a lack of conducive environment for the sport to thrive. Grassroots and youth level football remains underdeveloped and overlooked. Furthermore, financial crunch, infrastructure and lack of proper training facilities remain prevalent.

Despite everything, football popularity in the country is at an all time high and competitive football is played across the country, thanks largely to the private sector. There is no dearth of young aspirants pursuing a football career and hoping to play for the country one day. Given the situation, the irony is that the sport in the country stares at an uncertain future.

So the million -dollar question is, how does Nepal football overcome the challenges?

By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax, VA, USA

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