News Nepal Football At A Crossroads (Sr. Columnist Sushil Thapa Writes..)
Sushil Thapa

The men’s national football team of Nepal has dropped three spots to 178 in the latest FIFA rankings.

It comes as no surprise to me based on the team’s recent losing streak in international tournaments,especially the 2026 World Cup and 2027 Asia Cup qualifiers.

Despite a drop in rankings,Nepal still ranks higher than Bangladesh, Pakistan,Sri Lanka and Bhutan. Only India(the highest ranked country in South Asia) and Maldives are ranked higher than Nepal.

If Nepal’s dull and drab performance in international competitions continues unabated, the rankings most likely will plummet further. It is no exaggeration to say that Nepal football is on the decline. It's high time to nip it in the bud before it gets any worse.

In light of the team’s recent listless performance in the World Cup and Asia Cup qualifiers against Bahrain,all indications are that they have a Herculean task on hand to turn things around. Yes,they lost to a better prepared ,technically and physically superior opposition,but it was a subpar performance,by and large. They were nowhere near their best and got overwhelmed by the opponent way too easily in both outings. They did put in an improved performance in the away match but it was not enough to put the opposition in a spot of bother. Had they been competitive and gone down fighting,the setback would not have been a big deal and subject to criticism.

Clearly they underperformed and failed to live up to expectations.They should have performed much better. The team’s shortcomings and flaws were fully exposed during both legs of the matches for the umpteenth time. Although Nepal has two matches remaining against the United Arab Emirates and Yemen,however,they have exited the qualifiers technically. With four straight defeats,they are winless and pointless.

They have conceded 14 goals and failed to score a single goal so far. Poor preparation, players' weaker physicality, lack of self-confidence and big match temperament and inability to play to their potential largely contributed to the team’s mediocre performance. Head coach of the national team Italian Vincenza Alberto Anees conceded that they lacked adequate preparation for the showdown against a quality team like Bahrain. He said his current team roster is made up of mostly inexperienced players who have not competed in high level club competitions He emphasized the need for the betterment of training facilities and infrastructure to improve the team’s performance in the days ahead. The coach is absolutely right.

It is obvious that the better the training facilities, the better development of players. Unfortunately nothing concrete has been done by the All Nepal Football Association(ANFA) to develop players to the best effect, optimizing their talent and ensuring they reach their full potential over the years.

Despite frequent leadership and executive changes within ANFA, there has been no significant and encouraging changes in Nepal football landscape purely in terms of overall development. ANFA has been one big let down when it comes to fulfilling its obligations and promises.

The matter of fact is that poor infrastructure, inadequacy of proper training facilities, sorry state of clubs,negligible grassroots development, absence of an effective youth program, abysmal professional league,coupled with ANFA’s inept leadership,maladministration and mismanagement, continue to impede the development of football. Disillusioned and frustrated with the stagnant state of football,players are going overseas seeking financial stability and security for themselves and their families.

Players leaving the country trend is disturbing and has significantly impacted the team’s dynamics and performance. If Nepal football continues in the same direction,things are bound to get worse,bringing more uncertainty and frustration.

By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax,VA, USA

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