31 December 2009

ANFA's New Year's resolutions

From putting the national flag on uniforms to starting a women's league, here are ten achievable goals for ANFA in 2010. My latest article for Goalnepal.com.

29 December 2009

Domestic: Elephant football, Training in South Korea, Players dump garbage on NSC

  • No Elephant Polo in Chitwan this year - No Problem! Locals decided to organize an Elephant Football tournament instead. Looks like they also held an Elephant Sprint.

  • Nepali archers and taekwondo left for South Korea to practice for the upcoming South Asian Games. While I used to be very skeptical of these overseas trips, in retrospect it is a good opportunity for the athletes to experience foreign training methods and hopefully pass it on on to the next generation of sportsmen.

  • I'm becoming a big fan of the Nepal National and International Players' Association (NNIPA). In the last two weeks they protested against the improper use of Biratnagar stadium and then they dumped garbage on the NSC offices to object against the poor maintenance of Dasharath Rangasala.

Photo: Above the rim

Nice basketball game photo in the Republica from a few days back:

23 December 2009

International: Shillong Lajong website, NBA in India, Nigeria rejects Adidas

21 December 2009

Domestic: Rakesh hits 50, B-Boying, womens football, Army vs. PLA again, Biratnagar Stadium, Anil Gurung gives back

Tons of interesting Domestic stories last week:
  • Ajay Phuyal of Republica does a great job researching that Rakesh Shrestha indeed did get his 50th international cap as FIFA counted Nepal's friendly against Bhutan as an "A" international.

  • B-Boying in Nepal. Looks cool, but is it a sport?

  • More womens football in Nepalgunj. Many compliments go out to Mr. Bhoj Raj Shah who has been pushing womens football the last few years.

  • Nepal Army continues to cry over PLA participation in domestic sporting events. Get over it soldiers!

  • Players and Maoists take a stand in Biratnagar over the use (misuse) of the local stadium. Good for them! Morang Football Project training had to be moved from Biratnagar Stadium because of all the disruptions there, so I am very sympathetic to this cause.

  • White House College, HISSAN - Morang and Anil Gurung all helping develop sports. Really love what I am seeing. Everyone needs to do their part.

19 December 2009

Authorities need to stop cheating us

I really love this quote from an article in Time Magazine on the Formula 1 race fixing scandal:

"At a time when its fans most needs their heroes, athletes and football players and racecar drivers have to understand that their responsibilities go beyond just winning a game or collecting their massive pay check. They carry our hopes. When they cheat on the field, they cheat us."

Along with athletes, the sports authorities and clubs also have a similar responsibility. Despite all the issues we have in Nepal, sports provides a great platform to bring the country together, to get peoples' minds off of their daily troubles and to provide an outlet for people to enjoy themselves, make friends and be healthy. Sportsman and officials that neglect their duties and put personal interests first are really cheating the entire country on various fronts.

18 December 2009

Photo: Blind men running

The Nepal Paralympic Committee, with the support of the UN, organized a competitive race for visually impaired athletes.


Courtesy of Nepal Sports Photo

16 December 2009

Domestic: Tharu athletes, taekwondo boost, SAFF Champions League

  • Another terrific article by none other than Ayush Khadka (my English sports writer of the year) on the emegence of Tharu athletes in Nepal's sports sector. It is wonderful to see articles that explore beyond the surface of Nepal's sports sector.

  • Bishnu Auto Care has donated training equipment and offered cash rewards to the Nepal's SAG Taekwondo team.

  • The South Asian Football Federation is considering starting a club's champions league and other tournaments. They are also contemplating the idea of South Asian players not counting against the foreign quota in domestic leagues in the region. Anyone else find it intriguing that the change in leadership at SAFF has given way to fresh and new ideas?

14 December 2009

International: Ethics test before getting a gold medal, India to get a free pass, athlete tweets

  • Will the IOC require athletes to pass an ethical test before awarding them a gold medal?
    IOC officials might need an ethics test far more than the athletes do.

  • India might not have to qualify for FIH tournaments as greedy FIH looks to score big with Indian sponsors. I actually think it is a great idea. Revenues generated and media interest will help field hockey develop around the world.

  • Five of the most memorable athlete tweets of this year. I wish Nepali athletes were on Twitter. A bunch of them are on Facebook but do not write anything interesting.

13 December 2009

SAFF Cup failure

What is disheartening about Nepal’s football struggles is that it has been continuous for over 15 years! Other than once reaching the finals when hosting the 8th South Asian Games, Nepal has not had a single memorable run at the senior level in this time period.

You can try to find all the excuses in the world on why our football team stinks, but the reason is very straightforward. Our football system is total “jharatarni”. Instead of implementing a sound football development plan we continue to resort to shortcuts and gimmicks.

Read my full article at Goalnepal.com

Is it better to not have a national team?

After reading an article about Nepal's national basketball team, I was pondering - is it better not to have a national team in some sports and just play the game domestically?

For example - Basketball is already Nepal's most popular school sport and has a positive image. Why then do we need a national team? It's not as though our players will get scouted for foreign leagues and we won't be beating a decent team any time soon. On the contrary being active internationally invites a lot of politics and freeloaders hoping for a few free vacations and buffets into the basketball sphere . Getting pasted in international tournaments risks the sport being ridiculed at home and Nepal's basketball fraternity having low morale. Maybe it is better to keep the sport simple and pure.

As an American basketball fan, I love watching American college basketball and the NBA. I don't really care what the USA national basketball team does, nor do I wish for college and NBA teams to play international sides. It is not because I am inward looking or xenophobic. If you have a great thing going, why mess with it?

09 December 2009

Domestic: More politics in sports, a race for the blind, cricket stadium in pokhara

  • UML held a press conference announcing formation of its sports wing. Politicization of sports will lead to nothing but trouble, kind of like what we see at college campuses across Nepal. I can easily envision political sports wings getting involved in team selection and coaching, refereeing and administrative appointments.

  • A race for the blind was organized by the Nepal Paralympic Committee. It is always great to see events that promote sports participation.

  • In the caught me by surprise section - a cricket stadium is in the works in Pokhara. There looks to be quite a few cricket infrastructure projects happening across the country. Hopefully once the facilities are built they will be well utilized and help decentralize cricket from Kathmandu.

07 December 2009

International: Cyprus tourism, Bundesliga attendance, football agents

  • Cyprus Tourist Organisation is hoping that placing ads at English Premier League matches will help bring in Asian tourists to the Mediterranean country.

06 December 2009

Defeat the lightweights first

Nepal flopped at the recent ACC Twenty20 Cup, failing to advance past the group stages in a tournament where they were one of the favorites.

It is always tough to predict "Associate level" cricket as a majority of the teams are packed with players of Indian and Pakistani origin. In some cases, players are recruited directly from the subcontinent, therefore it is hard to judge how strong a side will be.

Nepal's team however consists fully of home grown players, thus often one hears grumblings that the cards are always stacked against us. For me it's a non-issue. If you want to play top class cricket against the likes of India and Pakistan, you better be able to defeat sides comprising of "C" grade Indian and Pakistani players.

02 December 2009

Sports tourism

Nepali institutions are really starting to grasp the concept of sports tourism and how the two genres can work together. Recently, the Nepal Amateur Athletics Association were awarded the Asian Cross-Country Championships. It is scheduled for 2011 and will coincide with Nepal Tourism Year.

The International Elephant Polo Championship will be held at Bardia National Park for the first time. Promoters hope the move will help develop tourism in the area.

Five reasons to be optimistic about Nepali football

There’s a lot of doom and gloom in Nepali football in the past few years. Here are a few reasons why we should be positive about the future of Nepali football:

Read the full article at Goalnepal.com

30 November 2009

Around the sports world

New Zealanad football chief says they will invest their World Cup windfall using a long-term strategy. He warned, "You can create a lot of short-term activity and then the money runs out."

Shillong Lajong FC is doing a great job signing sponsors and connecting with their fans. Lots of clubs in South Asia need to learn emulate them.

Audi loved sponsoring Bayern Munich so much, they decided to buy the team! Will a day arrive when Nabil Bank ponders purchasing Three Star Club?

Adidas is planning to make a $1 shoe (Inside sources tell me it will cost a little bit more than $1, but it will be very affordable none-the-less). Can we please get a few million units to Nepal.

29 November 2009

Government's role in sports

Whenever Nepali sports is in the gutters, many fans immediately point their fingers at the Government and call on it to do more to assist our national teams and athletes. I disagree. Nepal's government needs to focus on health and education - not any one sports team or elite athlete. That job is the responsibility of the sports associations, but as we know, most of the national sports association are either fast asleep or by a buffet table at a Five Star hotel near you. Therefore, I really get furious when sports associations make demands on the government. The irony is that the same people who ask for government support are the one's who constantly lecture that government should not interfere in sports.

It is great to see the Prime Minister take an interest in the sports sector and I am encouraged that he stated that a firm sports policy needs to be in place. My own policy recommendation would be to not give our sports association a single Rupee. Any money invested in sports by the government should only be allocated to grassroots participation initiatives or projects that help the social and economic well-being of the country, like a sports program that encourages health and exercise or one that promotes tourism to the country. Let the sports associations do their job, the government should not do it for them.

27 November 2009

Goalnepal.com's excellent coverage

Full disclosure: I write a monthly article for Goalnepal.com. No matter, I think most of us will agree that Goalnepal.com is a gift to Nepali football fans. Bikram Thapa, the CEO and editor, does a fantastic job putting out story after story on Nepali football from every corner of the country. There are very few English language Asian football sites that provide such good coverage.

Last week Goalnepal.com broke a few interesting stories that were both funny and infuriating at the same time. They included a report on the diet of the Nepali players which consisted of jerri and juice and the news that two first division clubs were stranded in Jhapa because they did not have enough players to participate in a tournament in Sikkim.

25 November 2009

Domestic roundup

All the national newspapers are doing a very good job of covering the South Asian Games qualifying. The standard of Nepali sports journalism is really on the rise. Here is a good example from my favorite English sports section - Republica.

The National Football Team went to Gokarna Resort to do a leadership and team building course. It's a great idea by ANFA advisers who put the program together. Mental training is almost as important as physical training according to this article.

Surya Nepal found Nepal's three most promising golfers.

There was a nice article in the Republica by Neeraj Chandra Roy on the whereabouts of the 10th South Asian Games gold medalists.

23 November 2009

Around the sports world

Biggest ever match-fixing racket busted by European authorities. Many may remember that ANFA did not even penalize a single person when Machhindra and RCT played a 9-8 football match which was undoubtedly fixed.

A nice article on how athletes can promote themselves using the Internet and social media. Anil Gurung and Deepak Bista are doing it through their websites and a few others like Rakesh Shrestha by way of Facebook.

Australian report says Australia is too focused on winning medals and thus participation rates in sports are dropping in the country. I absolutely agree that getting people to participate in sports comes first and then only should we focus on winning medals.

The formula for being a top athlete - 40-30-30. 40% training, 30% mental, 30% risk taking. Are Nepali athletes lacking the mental bit?

22 November 2009

Athletes reach new heights

This week four national records were broken, one in athletics and three in weightlifting. The feats are very positive news for Nepali sports as it indicates that some our athletes are performing to their abilities. As sports fans that is all we ask for from our national sportsmen.

It is wrong to judge athletes simply on whether they win medals. Certainly, the odds are stacked against them with the poor facilities and abysmal administration they have to work with in Nepal. That does not however mean that we should give them a free pass either. It is more than appropriate for us to expect athletes to put up a formidable showing in their respective sports.

When an athlete participates in an international sporting event and posts a time that is over 20% slower than their national best or gets knocked out in the first round of a tournament without throwing a single punch - they deserve to be criticized. But when a sportsman goes down swinging or breaks a personal best time, even if they finish in last place, then we should all be proud of their performance.

18 November 2009

Basketball the game of the youth

There are a ton of school basketball tournaments going on these days, both for boys and girls. The tournaments are receiving quite a bit of fanfare and media coverage and without a doubt basketball now is the school sport of Nepal.

Unlike football, which requires a massive field and a squad of 16 to 18 players, and the martial arts, whose purpose is to wound one's opponent, basketball is an ideal sport for Nepali schools.

I would love to see schools and the Nepal Basketball Association (NeBA) work together to really proliferate the game in the country. The goal should be for virtually every school to have a basketball court and a team. They would play in local school leagues and there would be a national championship for the top schools.

The dream scenario for sports lovers would be if in the future kids picked a school based on the reputation of the basketball program and the sport became the central event that brings together a school's alumni base. Countries like the USA and Japan have a great school sports culture and it would be wonderful if we could one day have that in Nepal through basketball.

17 November 2009

Anil Gurung's official website

Anil Gurung has launched an official website. Great timing by the Shillong Lajong striker, as interest in him is at a peak these days. The website has a creative layout - using a key chain as a navigation menu. Other than that it is fairly basic at the moment, but has most of the information that fans and media would be looking for.

16 November 2009

Around the sports world

Preity Zinta is taking a sports management class at Harvard. I wonder if Rekha Thapa is thinking of doing the same?

American comedian Stephen Colbert's television show, the Colbert Report is sponsoring the USA Speed Skating Team. That would be the equivalent of Deepak Raj Giri's super-hit show Tito Satya sponsoring one of Nepal's national teams.

Sport England is spending GBP 1o million to encourage women to play sport. It would be great to see similar initiatives in Nepal. Let's stop wasting money on tourist athletes.

Here is a link to few Sports Marketing & New Media presentations (FC Barcelona, NFL, IMG, etc.)

15 November 2009

Treat sports like a business

A big reason Nepali sports is on life-support is because our sports officials treat sports like it is a village "mela". All one needs to do is give notice to the local band a few days in advance, make sure there is enough food and liquor for everyone, and invite the most prominent politician in the area to grace the function. Once the "mela" is over everyone limps back home and all that is left at the village ground are heaps of garbage and a few passed-out drunks.

Sports have evolved substantially in recent times and "mela" management techniques do not work anymore. Our sports officials need to start treating sports like a business: there needs to be a strategic plan, proper accounting and audits, human resource development, a board of directors with real executive powers, customer service management, annual reports and reviews, etc., etc.

Sponsors need to be looked at as partners and not donors. The Government should be a resource and not the solution. Senior administrators must have the mindset of a CEO and not a 3rd-world dictator. People should be hired and promoted based on merit and not nepotism.

12 November 2009

Prize money sends wrong message

Virtually every youth tournament these days is offering prize money to student athletes and schools. Perhaps this is the only way tournaments can attract participants, but it certainly sends the wrong message to kids.

When prize money is involved the ideals of sportsmanship, skill development, teamwork and having fun, which should be highly emphasized at youth levels, take a back seat to winning at all costs.

As a result the systematic development of youth players is compromised, there is a peak in match and age fixing, and students learn poor life lessons.

School and youth level sporting events should stop the practice of awarding prize money. A simple handshake after the match and some delicious Long Pie for the bus ride back home is more than adequate.

10 November 2009

18th Asian Athletics Championships

Here is a link to the 18th Asian Athletics Championships. Nepali athletes are not doing too well at the event.

Does cheating pay?

I always questioned why a country would used overage players in youth tournaments. The use of over-age players is immoral and does little to develop football in the country. Well, that's what I thought.

After the dismal results of the current Nepal youth teams in AFC competitions, I now question my firmly held beliefs.

The horrid results have been condemned by fans, media, and the football fraternity alike. It has probably produced the greatest amount of collective venom ANFA has received recently.

But where was the outrage when Nepal blatantly used overage players (and no matter how much ANFA might try to deny it, the fact is they knowingly did) to advance to the AFC Under 16 finals in the past? On the contrary everyone celebrated the accomplishment like a Diwali night and was more than happy to look the other way on the over-age issue.

Let's face it, ANFA does not currently have the will to develop a formidable youth development plan. Knowing they cannot produce great teams through a well constructed youth system the choices left are either to use over-age players and do well or be honest and get beaten like hand-washed laundry. Why should anyone then subject themselves to scorn by playing fair?

08 November 2009

Anil brings hope to Nepali football

Anil’s contract with SLFC is not only a great personal accomplishment but provides something far greater for Nepali football , something that has gone missing from our country’s favorite sport for a very long period of time. Hope!

Read my full article at GoalNepal.com

05 November 2009

Athletes receive little support

There have been a host of stories in the local rags about the difficulties our sportsmen are facing as they prepare for the SAF Games. Basically each article reads like one of those Thamel t-shirts:
No Diet
No Facilities
No Good Allowance
No Government Support
No Job
NO HOPE!
Time to throw away any expectations you might have had for Dhaka.

02 November 2009

Time to sterilize Rangasala

Is anyone really shocked by the missile throwing incident at the AFC Under 19 match between Nepal and Jordan? From the Aaha Gold Cup in Pokhara to the Martyrs Memorial League matches in Kathmandu to even pick-up games in the rice fields of the Terrai – spectator disobedience has become part and parcel of Nepali football.

With football officials setting terrible examples by bullying their way into stadiums without proper accreditation or shouting obscenities throughout matches, and the police boxing themselves in to corners of the stadium where they laugh and giggle with each other like nursery school kids while having little manoeuvrability to respond quickly to incidents - even the casual fan quickly realizes that Kurukshetra is literally a stone’s throw away when attending a football match.

While admittedly many of our spectators have a lot of growing-up to do, football officials and the police must share the blame for the continued security lapses at matches. For our football officials security basically means making sure the police are present at the event, and for the cops it means having enough lumber to lathi charge fans after they misbehave. This obsolete view of security needs to change.

Along with proper sports centric security planning and training, the authorities need to also try to change the hostile culture that exists at football games. Incentives to lure women and children to matches, keeping the stadium constantly clean and ancillary entertainment options for spectators (food, prizes, cheerleaders, etc.) are some ways they can start to sterilize the atmosphere. While some may feel that this will turn football stadiums into meditation centers, I would argue that Nepali football never has had a passionate supporters culture in the first place, so I fail to see what we would lose other than a bunch of trouble makers and continued fines from the AFC .

01 November 2009

ROI: Football versus Cricket

Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) announced a budget of 68 Lakhs (Appx. $90,000). I found that number shockingly low when compared to ANFA who just between their grants from FIFA and AFC get around $430,000 (3.35 Crores). That does not even account FIFA Goal Project funding or domestic sponsorship and allowances which easily add a few hundred thousand dollars more to that total.

Looking at the numbers, one would have to conclude that cricket easily offers Nepal ten times the return on investment that football does. While both CAN and ANFA should do some soul searching at their poor record at developing their sports at the grassroots levels, with less coaches, facilities, sponsorship, etc., our cricketers have been able to muster far better results than their football counterparts by reaching the finals or semi-finals of virtually every international tournament they participate in. Obviously Nepal is not playing against the likes of Australia and India in cricket, but neither are they competing with Asian powerhouses Japan and Korea in football.

31 October 2009

Details of Anil Gurung's journey to Shillong Lajong

Nice write-up by Ajay Phuyal in the Republica on how Anil Gurung found his way to Shillong Lajong Football Club.

Asian Indoor Games

The Prime Minister saw off the Nepali contingent participating in the 3rd Asian Indoor Games in Vietnam. A very strategic decision by the PM as receiving the players after the conclusion of the Games may be a bit embarrassing.

Nepali athletes will be participating in Snooker, 3 on 3 Basketball, Archery, Chess and Boxing. The official website of the event can be found here.

30 October 2009

Anil Gurung signs for Shillong Lajong

Looks like Anil Gurung took my advice ;-) and signed with Indian I-League side Shillong Lajong. According to Goalnepal.com Anil has signed a 3 year contract worth around 63 Lakhs.

I am really thrilled about the news and here is why. You can follow Lajong Shillong on their Facebook site.

29 October 2009

Newspaper websites need reprogramming

Kathmandu Post finally fixed the glitch in their website which made it difficult to access their sports stories, but finding archived stories remains cumbersome. The Himalayan Times website continues to be out of whack with no domestic sports stories ever appearing on its front page and very old stories populating the sports section. As for the Rising Nepal, do they cover Nepali sports anymore or are they just not bothered to post those stories online? All these newspapers are really doing a disservice to their scribes with such poorly built websites. Thankfully, Republica is keeping me sane.

28 October 2009

Chhetry highlights IP issues

If any publicity is good publicity then Soccer In Nepal Blog should buy a few plates of momo for Udipt Singh Chhetry. The last few days, Chhetry, the webmaster of NepalSportsPhoto.com went on a crusade to name and shame the little known Blog for blatantly using his photos - watermarks intact! I venture to guess that traffic to the site must have doubled or tripled since Chhetry brought attention to the Blog.

After a few days of flooding Facebook and the Blog's own comments section with vicious posts against the site, the webmaster of the Blog, who remains anonymous, finally took down all of Chhetry's pictures.

Though the operator of Soccer In Nepal Blog is probably a passionate Nepali football fan who simply was not well versed on IP issues, I applaud Chhetry for his efforts. It is really frustrating when someone takes your work without permission, especially when you calculate all the effort and costs that go into producing the product. Hopefully this incident will serve notice to media outlets in Nepal that they need to be much more mindful of intellectual property rights.

Update: Chhetry is now going after Three Star Club's Facebook account for using his photos and Brigade Boys Club...

27 October 2009

Top volleyball player gets spiked

A top Nepali volleyball player, Prem Bahadur Shahi, has been kicked off of the SAF Games squad for failing to turn up for practice. He claims he was not able to arrive at the trials on time because of the road from his district being closed. Does the punishment fit the crime? Seems a bit harsh to me, but if the news reporting is accurate, there seems to be a lack of sobriety at the Nepal Volleyball Association.

26 October 2009

ANFA losing the plot

It is outrageous that injured players are being played in a youth level tournament. Why risk the kids' careers in a competition that is meant to develop players? ANFA has really lost the plot.

Although the big names in the squad, Rohit Chand and Dipak Bhushal sustained minor injuries in the first match, coach Shakya hinted there would be no change in the playing set on Tuesday. “After losing the first match, we are under tremendous pressure to win. “I am not in the situation to take risk keeping the key players in the bench,"
-Himalayan Times

Another report says Nepal's top prospect Nirajan Malla is also not fully fit but will be playing.

25 October 2009

Government has the right to ask questions

Politics should not interfere with sports, except when it comes to providing apathetic sports officials tickets to international sporting galas, giving grants to mismanaged sports federations, providing free land for the construction of corruption filled sporting infrastructure projects, and subsidizing international tournaments which have a limited impact both socially and economically for Nepal. That pretty much sums up the sentiments of most of our sports officials.

If the government provides money to a firm for the construction of roads, the public is right to demand the government makes sure that the company is held accountable. Similarly if sports want access to government funds they need to be prepared to answer to Uncle Shyam.

Just the other day the government increased allowances for SAF Games athletes. Will those same athletes and their respective sports association be accountable if they fail to put on an inspired performance in Dhaka? My guess is that they will just make more excuses – the lack of facilities, load-shedding, global warming, an Indian conspiracy against Nepali athletes, etc., etc.

It is not that I do not sympathize with our athletes, the ineptitude of the NSC has been highlighted on numerous occasions on this blog, but too often the government is used as an easy scapegoat to shield the incompetence of our sports associations and the under performance of our athletes. If the government is asked to step-up and bat, athletes and sports associations need to reciprocate.

21 October 2009

Under 16 National Team post-mortem

Goalnepal.com carries my thoughts on Nepal's dismal showing in the AFC Under 16 qualifiers. Unlike the mainstream sports media, I do not think it is correct to blame the players or coaches. ANFA's youth football strategy - or the lack of it - is the real culprit.

19 October 2009

Stadium bidding heats up in Sunsari

And you thought the Olympic Games host city bidding was a competitive affair. Three cities in Sunsari district, Dharan, Inaruwa and Itahari are fighting tooth and nail to land a multi-use stadium which has been promised to the district by the central government. For once I welcome all the political activity we are seeing related to this sports related issue.

Let us hope the fierce lobbying that we are seeing in Sunsari district and the headlines it is making will help highlight the importance of sporting facilities. Nepal's municipalities desperately need more recreational and sporting facilities.

04 October 2009

Rio will save Nepal some blushes

Seven years is a very long time, but the current trajectory of Nepali sports suggests that we will not be any further along than we currently are in our sporting prowess and administration. Therefore, the selection of Rio de Janeiro as the host city for the 2016 Olympic Games is great news for Nepal - as it is the only one out of the four candidate cities (Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid were the others) where our athletes will probably not be tempted to runaway and seek employment at a local gas station.

29 September 2009

Politicizing of NSC

The NSC Board was selected last week along political lines. I find the news quite troubling for the future of Nepali sports as it will see a lack of continuity at the NSC and in the country's sports policy when there is a change in government. It also means that many officials at the NSC might be more politically motivated than sports motivated. The worst part is that players, coaches and administrators could be hired and fired along party lines, which inevitably would see unending posturing between political cadres at every opportunity.

One of the beauties of sports is that generally it is meritocratic. No matter your family background, economic status, education level or physical appearance - if you can kick a ball or are good at teaching someone how to kick a ball, there will be a club looking for your services. The politicizing of sports will undoubtedly destabilize that dynamic and turn sports into yet another battlefield for our political parties to destroy.

27 September 2009

Hat-trick of depressing articles

Slow sports week because of the religious festivities. Here are a few stories from this week which were great reads albeit kind of depressing:

Rohit Rai writes about the poor health of Nepal's first golf course.

The toils of some Nepali boxers are uncovered by Raju Adhikari.

Ayush Khadka exposes why we see less kites in our skies these days.

23 September 2009

My love-hate for the Republica sports section


I am really digging the online Republica sports section. Good selection of stories, timely and lots of photos! Also it is very easy on their website to comment on an article if provoked and to find older stories for geek sports bloggers such as myself.

That is not to say Republica does not have room to improve. They annoyed the heck out of me with some shoddy journalism like their poorly written Anil Gurung article and a recent story where they mentioned that the top Badminton players were not participating in an event but failed to mention exactly why.

20 September 2009

Athletics meet sees records fall

The first phase of SAF Games qualifiers in athletics was held last week. It was an exciting two days of competition in which several national records were broken in the 400 Meters and High Jump. I really wish I had the chance to attend the event.

The Nepal Amateur Athletics Association would be wise start focusing on middle and long distance athletics events. Our geography and physique are perfectly suited to dominate those events. If Morocco, Kenya and Ethiopia can do it, why not us?

19 September 2009

Kabbadi, kabbadi, kabbadi...

Anyone else feel that a great over-the-top comedy film could be made with a Kabbadi tournament as the central theme, kind of like DodgeBall. Well, I might have found just the right script for it!

Turns out that an international Kabbadi tournament in Bhairahawa was not as international as some of the participants had expected. I myself was puzzled when first learning that a Kabbadi tournament in the absolutely nothing-to-do town would feature teams from Argentina, Norway and the USA. Looks like the whole thing was a sham to collect money from registration fees.

Karate kids in limbo

Our Karatekas are being forced to jump through hoops to attend the 9th AKF Championships in Guangzhou, China. The Nepal contingent are being asked by the Nepal Karatedo Federation to pay their own way once at the event. Also one of the Karatekas was denied a visa because she is Buddhist!

15 September 2009

Time to come back home Anil

So accusations are flying that ANFA did not do enough to help Anil Gurung extend his stay with 6th division English club Woking FC. Honestly, does it really matter? My national pride is certainly not wounded at the prospects of Anil coming back home instead of being an anonymous footballer in London. Actually, it will be good for Nepali football for him to play in a more relevant league in South Asia - hopefully in India if things workout.

Remember Nirajan Rayamajhi? He wasted his prime football years playing for a dinky amateur club in Germany and abandoned a chance to write his name as one of the best Nepali footballers of all time alongside the likes of Ganesh Thapa, Mani Shah and Hari Khadka.

13 September 2009

Both Army and Volleyball Association are wrong

I do not understand Nepal Volleyball Association's stance that volleyball players from the Nepal Army will not eligible for selection to the SAF Games squad because they will not be competing in the ongoing national volleyball league. Unlike in swimming and athletics there is no qualification system for players in volleyball. Either you are good enough for the national team or you are not. Obviously the national volleyball team coaches know who the best players in the country are - regardless of what tournaments they participate in, so shouldn't they simply be able to pick the best players out there?

As for the Army's withdrawal from the volleyball super league because of PLA's participation, to me, it does have merit. Unlike the Armed Police Force in football who were given direct entry into the Martyrs League 'A' Divison, the PLA qualified fair and square for the volleyball super league. No team should have the right to pick and choose who they play against. If Army wants to boycott a team - they should stop playing APF in football.

10 September 2009

Player of the Year Awards winners

There is a good recap (with lots of photos) of the NSJF Pulsar Player of the Year 2065 Awards here. Glad to see non football and cricket sports-persons winning the bulk of the awards.

09 September 2009

Breaststroke mark broken

Tons of sports events going on these days. There are national level tournaments in Swimming, Chess, Volleyball and Badminton among many others. I encourage our readers to click on the newspaper links on the left hand column to get all the details on the events.

Great job by Shailesh Rana in breaking the national men's 50 meter breaststroke mark at a time of 32.82. That time would have grabbed him the 122nd place at the most recent World Aquatics Championships. Keep practicing son.

07 September 2009

Kathmandu Marathon

The Kathmandu Marathon has a very impressive website. They have also created a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Much credit to the organizers for using all the Internet technologies out there. Along with Deepak Bista's website, this is the best Nepali sports website I've come across.

I'd be remiss not to mention my friends at Sodne.com where I first found the link to the event.

06 September 2009

Are we really the best at youth level?

Here is a link to my first article for GoalNepal.com, Bikram Thapa's excellent Nepal football website. The piece addresses whether Nepal is the best at youth football in the South Asian region.

05 September 2009

Too many Jacks, no Aces

The budget and plans for Nepal's participation in the 11th SAF Games have been released. NSC has decided to participate in all the events scheduled for the Games and will divvy up some Rs. 11 Crores between the sports. I know a lot of politics is involved in the planning and budgeting for events like these, but I feel Nepal's sports strategy is totally off and we are producing too many Jacks (actually "deuces" would be a more accurate description) and no Aces.

While every sport has its merits, focusing on a few core sports is the way to go. Create top class athletes in targeted sports and win a few medals and instantly Nepali sports will get the much needed shot in the arm it needs. Nepal's social, economic and geographic particularities ensures that we will always struggle to produce great athletes and results in some sports like swimming, hockey and volleyball. Therefore, let's concentrate on the sports that we can excel at and that can be easily played at schools and in the villages throughout the country - mountains, hills and terai. Certainly the martial arts is the obvious choice. Basketball, football and table tennis are popular school sports. Cricket has potential because of our neighbors. Long distance running suits our topography. I'm sure a case could be made for other sports as well.

I know the NSC Vision 2020 had a similar idea in mind when it went to press, but after seeing that gymnastics was listed as a sport with potential in Nepal, the "Vision" pretty much lost all its credibility. Hopefully our sports administrators will be able to dust themselves off and try again to develop a sound sports strategy that brings glory to the nation and proliferates sports across the country.

Arniko Skateboards

Some may remember a post I made a few months back about Arniko Skateboards. Here is an interview in the Republica about the Nepali skateboards and its Swiss founder.

The article is quite inspiring and I love seeing stories of people just doing it, instead of moaning 24x7 about all the shortcomings in the country.

03 September 2009

Player of the Year nominees announced

The Nepal Sports Journalists Forum (NSJF) released the names of the nominees for the Player of the Year Awards 2065. You can check the names and profiles of the atletes on the NSJF official website.

NSJF have always done a really good job with the Player of the Year Awards. It is a well promoted event with some big time sponsors, the nominees are carefully selected and come from a good mix of sports, and the prizes on offer are very attractive to the athletes.

I went to the NSJF event a few years back and was really impressed with the quality of the production. There was nothing substandard about the event. To me it shows that with a little bit of ingenuity and dedication we can achieve great things in Nepali sports. We just have to believe and be willing to put in the necessary work.

31 August 2009

Eastern cadets impress

I was highly impressed with the twenty four under 12 boys training at the Eastern ANFA Technical Center. The technical ability, confidence and flair with which they played was outstanding.

The encouraging news is that these 24 boys were not even the first choices for ANFA. The best of this year's under 12 batch are training at the Kathmandu Academy with the leftovers going to the two Technical Centers in Butwal and Dharan.

Lots of credit needs to be given to senior ANFA coach Shiva Bhakta Joshi who was in charge of selection. All the boys seem to be there on merit and look to fit the age bar.

While I am technically at odds with the practice of a national under 12 academy, it is still nice to see that the country has some very talented youth players.

29 August 2009

ANFA Technical Center - Dharan

When I was out East, I had a chance to visit the Eastern ANFA Technical Center in Dharan. While the construction of the Technical Center had major hiccups and rightfully came under severe criticism for its poorly accessible location and shoddy design, the management team in Sunsari have done a solid job of reworking a structure that was destined to be white elephant.

The location of the facility is absolutely gorgeous - it is in a virgin area, right below lush green hills. It now has a beautiful full-sized field and boasts canteen and rooms for the 24 academy boys who are training there. There is a stand on the east side that can seat around 5 - 8,000 spectators. The facility could potentially be a great preseason training destination for football clubs from Kathmandu, Northeast India and West Bengal which are all a night-bus / night-train ride away from Dharan.

First Nepali to qualify for Wimbledon

Another nice article by Ayush Khadka - this time about the first Nepali to qualify for Wimbledon - Sujay Lama. To be honest, I had my doubts about the story, so I actually Googled around to verify. Sure enough, it's true!

Here is a detailed profile of Sujay Lama from the University of North Texas athletics website. He is currently the head of the tennis program there and holds a very impressive resume. It is always great to learn of a Nepali sporting success story like the one of Lama jee.

28 August 2009

Martial Arts Games disaster

Nepal did miserably at the 1st Asian Martial Arts Games. In arguably our strongest sports we managed a meager bronze medal in Wushu and that was only because there were just three participants in the weight category.

What is most troubling is the fact that our peers Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bhutan were all able to better our athletes, most of them winning medals in Taekwondo, traditionally Nepal's goldmine in international sport.

At the 8th SAF Games (1999) Nepal won 28 gold medals in Karate and Taekwondo alone. At the 10th SAF Games (2006) the number plummeted to 4 gold medals in the two disciplines. Why the drastic drop-off? I'm not the authority on the issue, but from what I have learned, in 1999 Nepal was the only country in the South Asian region supporting the martial arts disciplines. When martial arts became a part of the SAF Games our regional rivals also started funding the contact sports. They were not only quickly able to catch-up with us, but are now on pace to leave us in the dust.

25 August 2009

Marathon man

I'm back home after a two weeks break, so expect the blog to heat-up again.

Here is a link to a great article by Bikash Sangraula in the Republica on arguably Nepal's top professional athlete of the last century - Baikuntha Manandhar.

18 August 2009

Football in Eastern Nepal

I just got back to Kathmandu from my annual football tour of Eastern Nepal. Soccer junkies trapped in Kathmandu Valley should really take a pilgrimage to Sunsari, Morang and Jhapa districts and see the grand potential of Nepali football. Those three districts alone provide around half of the players in the Martyrs Memorial League "A" Division. There are scores of football fields there and even the smallest tournaments attract hundreds of spectators.

ANFA recently built a Technical Center in Dharan, Sunsari. The top twenty four boys under the age of twelve from across the nine football playing districts in the East are training at the academy there. I'll be posting more on all these topics in the coming days.

08 August 2009

Can sports learn from the Gurkhas and Sherpas?

I'm off to eastern Nepal for the next two weeks. As a result I doubt I'll be updating the blog until late August. Until then I leave you with a quote I once came across in a foreign sports magazine:
"For a country (Nepal) that produces the greatest warriors (Gurkhas) and best mountain climbers (Sherpas) in the world, developing world class athletes should be relatively simple."

04 August 2009

What's wrong with Nepali sports (Chapter 2)

I just bookmarked four articles in today's papers for potential blog posts. Unfortunately all of them highlight the mess that is Nepali sports:

Judo - the president of the Nepal Judo Association manhandled because of comments he made to the media. Unbelievable!

Asian Martial Arts Games - Nepal continues to falter at the event. Nepal is guaranteed a Bronze in Wushu because there are only three competitors in one of the weight categories. Unbelievable!

General
- the highly political Sports Minister preaching on not mixing sports and politics at an event organized by a Maoist backed sports association. Unbelievable!

Football - a reactionary football players association formed claiming that All Nepal Football Players Association was formed secretly. This one is actually - Believable!

03 August 2009

Can Jesus save Nepali sports?

The recently concluded AIA Tennis Tournament in Kathmandu was organized by a proselytizing group Atheles in Action. Going off of the information on the organization's official website their goal is to spread the word of Jesus Christ by using the popularity of sport as a vehicle.

For those who contend that only prayers can save Nepali sports, are these the prayers Nepali sports desperately needs? Have Bouddha and Pashupatinath failed our athletes? Certainly Jesus has been very kind to Kaka (pictured) these days :)

Update: Check out this video of a Christian Mass Healing function at Dasharath Rangasala. Hopefully Nepali sports will be healed too!

02 August 2009

Asian Martial Arts Games

Eighteen Nepali athletes are participating in the 1st Asian Martial Arts Games. Seeing that Nepal historically bags two or three medals at the Asian Games - we should expect similar numbers at this event.

Here is a link to the competition's official website.

30 July 2009

ANFA cronies need to pipe down

I find it quite amusing outrageous that a few ANFA officials, most of them one time pawns of Geeta Rana, have been very eager to publicly take shots at their rivals and Nepal's sports establishment as a whole. They use lingo like, "opportunists" "incompetent" "politically motivated" "corrupt" "puppets" to portray the people outside their fraternity. I hope they realize that these words in fact best describes themselves.

27 July 2009

Weightlifters break national marks

The National Weightlifting Championship in Nepalgunj (great to see that a national level tournament was held outside of Kathmandu for a change) witnessed many national weightlifting marks being shattered. The event also highlighted the popularity of the sport amongst female athletes.

An international sports official once told me that if Nepal wants to win a medal in the Olympics, weightlifting was its best bet. It's an inexpensive sport for diminutive athletes and requires no infrastructure.

Update: good, but sad story about weightlifters today in the Kathmandu Post.