After much speculation and suspense, the much talked about second edition of the National Super League, Nepal’s premier football tournament finally kicks off on November 24th in Kathmandu much to everyone’s delight.
The wait for the second season of the franchise based club football league has been agonizingly long and frustrating for franchises,players and sports enthusiasts. The first edition of the tournament was launched amidst unprecedented fanfare and publicity in 2021.
It brought hope of changing the landscape of Nepal football by bringing a competitive game of professional football,in a true sense. The competition of this magnitude is the first of its kind in the country.It was well received by the sports fraternity and in no time generated a lot of interest and excitement in people across the country. At a time when Nepal football needed a professional league,the start of National Super League(NSL) was a major breakthrough and the best thing to happen.
It marked the dawn of a new era in the history of Nepal football. The involvement of some of the country’s biggest well known corporate houses in NSL was/is very encouraging and has given Nepal football the much needed shot in the arm.It provides impetus to develop and promote the sport.
Much of the credit goes to Nepal Sports and Events Management(NSEM), the organizer of NSL for undertaking such an important and ambitious venture to support the development of football in the country. Clearly, it speaks volumes about their commitment to give budding players every opportunity to showcase their talents and make it to the highest level of the sport. As per the agreement, NSEM and the All Nepal Football Association(ANFA) took the responsibility to stage the NSL for eight years.
Furthermore, NSEM agreed to support financially and pledged Rs 172.2 million to ANFA for the organization of NSL. However,after the grand success of the inaugural edition,the second season scheduled to take place in 2022 was in a limbo following a dispute between ‘ A’ Division Clubs and NSL organizers related to players recruitment.
Since the issue remained unresolved, NSL had to be put off for an indefinite period of time. As a result,the tournament was not held in 2022 as scheduled.The situation could have been easily averted if ANFA had done its homework properly. It was a case of incompetence, negligence and lack of foresight.How could they not see that coming. Unbelievable! Ensuring uninterrupted continuity matters most when it comes to the success of the tournament in terms of making a real impact.Otherwise,it is less likely to serve the purpose.
Given the current state of Nepal football,which is unconducive and abysmal, the importance of a competition of NSL stature has significantly increased. Out of frustration and desperation, established players have been leaving the country in droves to seek a brighter future abroad lately. The national teams in all age groups are underperforming and struggling to deliver results. The overall development of football, including infrastructure,grassroots and youth levels remain stagnant.
ANFA led Pankaj Nembang seems to be sleeping behind the wheel.His leadership has proved to be one big disappointment. His administration has completely failed to address the challenges facing Nepal football today. They are lacking vision and a clear roadmap to develop and strengthen the sport in the short and long run. We are all aware that NSL provides a very important platform to every young, aspiring player in the country who is dreaming of becoming a professional footballer.
Seven franchises participated in the first edition, won by Kathmandu Rayzrs.They beat Dhangadhi FC in the final. The 2023 season features nine franchises representing six provinces of the country,two more than the first edition. Jhapa FC,Sporting Ilam De Mechi FCnd Birgunj United FC are making their debut in the competition. Of the seven franchises that participated in the inaugural edition,only Biratnagar City FC withdrew from the tournament.
A total of 46 foreign players mostly from Africa have been recruited by the nine teams. They are from Ghana, Sénégal, Guinea, Congo,Nigeria,Cameroon,Ivory Coast, Lebanon,England, Spain, United States, Uzbekistan, Serbia and France. Lalitpur City FC, FC Chitwan and Jhapa FC have foreign coaches from Australia,India and Spain respectively.
The rest have local head coaches. The 2023 season kicks off in Kathmandu between the defending champions Kathmandu Rayzrs and Sporting Ilam De Mechi FC.
One of the most decorated African players Didier Drogba, the former captain of the national team of Ivory Coast and striker of Chelsea will be the event’s star attraction. He will most probably come Nepal during the event. NSL has all the elements of a thrilling, exciting and entertaining spectacle.Let us hope that it lives up to the hype.
By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax,VA, USA
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