24 July 2011

Jordan match was lost decades ago

Nepal did not lose to Jordan 9-0 last night. It lost the match decades ago.
2001, 1991 or 1981 – take your pick. What occurs in a football match isn’t just a 90 minute story, it is part of a novel that begins years back, perhaps even before any of our current national team players were born.

It was ten, twenty, thirty years ago when ANFA and our football clubs should have been developing coaches, creating sound youth programs (and not gimmicks like the ANFA Academy), truly professionalizing the football league and building football facilities (before land prices were 1 crore per ropani).

Neither the twenty member squad that went to Jordan nor their coaches are responsible for the humiliating defeat. They are just victims of an inept Nepali football system that has let football fans and the country down for ages.

It is a system that does not have a single AFC A-License coach when we should have several hundred. It is a system where clubs spend lakhs on senior players and not a penny on youth development. It is a system where fans and news media celebrate a victory over East Timor, the lowest FIFA ranked Asian country, like a victory over Argentina.

Apologists will always bring up our poverty, our dysfunctional government, an unhelpful FIFA/AFC, but riddle me this - just last week ANFA conducted a grassroots-football workshop and coaches from clubs that are the most active in grassroots-football like Bansbari, Madhyapur, Sahara and Oshonik were not even invited. Was this a result of poverty, government, FIFA/AFC, an Indian conspiracy to dominate Nepal or simply pure negligence and incompetence by our football officials?

The list of grievances is endless; therefore, expecting a formidable result by our national team against quality opposition is like expecting a kid who goes to a Nepali government school in Bajhang district with no books or qualified teachers to pass the SLC exam.

Sagar Thapa, Anil Gurung, Rohit Chand, Megh Raj KC and Upendra Man Singh are all students at the School of Nepali Football and Graham Roberts the visiting professor asked to prepare them for an education at Oxford. Class is over kids and Jordan certainly taught us a few lessons!

The roots are rotten
You will only have a strong national team when you have quality players, and quality players are only developed when you have formidable coaches, leagues and youth programs. ANFA could hire Sir Alex Ferguson tomorrow or send the national team for one year training in Brazil, but until the roots of Nepali football are nourished Nepali football will remain a rotting tree.

Let us take youth football as an example. Experts agree that youth football starts as early as age 5 or 6. By age 12 a player should be technically sound. Youth players should participate in 30 to 40 competitive matches a year and need to have played around 10,000 hours of football by the age of 20 to become a top talent. You need a pool of tens of thousands of players to cultivate a single elite player and need well qualified coaches (who understand youth development) to nurture and develop those talents.

Now let’s look at the realities on the ground. In Nepal there is no organized youth football whatsoever until age 12. At age 12 if a player is extremely lucky he can get selected by the ANFA Academy or the 2 or 3 club youth training programs that have recently started. Only at age 12 do players start technical training and usually it is by coaches who have little or no knowledge of youth football development. The academy kids hardly play any competitive matches, maybe a dozen at the most, as there are no opponents to play against. At best there are about 200 players in these academies and the rest of our youth are left to play on city streets or village rice fields. It is no wonder that in the last decade only one Nepali player, Rohit Chand, has gone on to play at the highest level of Indian football, which itself is quite mediocre.

Youth football is just one example of the failing Nepali football system. You could make a similar list of issues in every aspect of football in the country from league organization, club structures, coach and referee development and facility management to things like marketing, sports medicine, news media and even fan culture.

Turning things around
The great news is despite all our challenges football is still king in Nepal. The media coverage, the chatter on Facebook, the packed stands at tournaments and kids climbing trees to watch a match is unrivaled in the region.

The potential to be a great football nation is still there. ANFA, football clubs and even sponsors (see my last GoalNepal article), news media and fans need to simply DO THE POSSIBLE, as in the famous quote, “If you do all that is possible, you will have achieved the impossible.”

The possible road to impossible starts with ANFA developing well qualified coaches. Not one or two but hundreds! Without high quality coaches we will never have high quality players. Second, every club whether it is Laliguras Club of Dhankuta or Three Star Club of Lalitpur need to begin youth football activities - be it a simple after school "football for all" program or an elite youth academy. Only once we have thousands of kids playing organized football will we be able to find 11 players that have the quality to compete against the best sides on the continent.

Do these two things and we will be well on our way to recovering from the 9 goal deficit.

8 comments:

  1. right said, root level dekhi hunu paryo pragati. this is the same team who defeated jordan in under 16 game hoina? we act in late stages that is out habbit now. any way can't nepal have a international tournament of 4 /6 nation which involves teams which are lil above us like thailand, singapore, oman, india ?we do not have international exposure how they play. the game technics has changed a lot it is not about physical, it do have some physological effects too. hope the current school level cocacola cup boost a little bit in nepalese football? yaar hamro desh ma ali kati khaali jagga bhaye ni shopping complex banauna haatar huncha hehehehe ani kaha baccha haroo le football khelne? palces where we played footbal are all been transfer into houses so there are many expect we have to see.

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  2. That is waht i am saying since ages.. They take Trials in academy too. How can this be??

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  3. @Sangesh - youth tournaments are deceiving as different countries take different attitudes towards them. Also Nepal has often used overage players in youth tournaments. International friendly tournaments are not a popular format, but certainly Nepal can arrange friendly matches, but costs are an issue. As for Coca-Cola Cup it really does not produce any top level players. It is, what it is - a one and done youth tournament. We certainly need football grounds and that is something ANFA and the government should be working on together. It might be too late in KTM, but in the villages we need to protect public spaces and playing fields. It should be a government policy to have protected playing fields in every VDC.

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  4. Undeniably,where there is a will, there is a way. Sadly, it does not imply, so to speak, in the context of Nepal.This is because of government indifference,lack of infrastructure, corporate apathy, absence of a sporting culture and dishonest officials.Unless we overcome these barriers we cannot even grow as a fairly reasonable sporting nation, be it football or any other sports. And our struggle and humiliation like the one in Jordan will continue unabated.
    Your piece is compelling and renders hope to a hopeless situation. The real root cause of problems you raised and your line of thinking are rational.
    Having said so, long as Ganesh Thapa led ANFA who does not want to quit or contribute Nepali football will continue to stagnate and there shall be no end to footballer woes .

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  5. I think first thing ANFA should do is to bring professionalism in football. It can only be achieved by establishing a real National league. Scrap the current league system and go for a new one. Have teams from outside valley from cities like pokhara, dharan, nepalgunj, butwal. these cities have OK stadiums so minimum need of new infrastructures. Matches should be on weekends so people can go n watch as leisure during offdays. I am a serviceman and I cannot go and watch matches in stadium unless its Saturday.

    May be transportation will be a problem for clubs for national leagues around country which ANFA should fund until clubs are financially stable. And about clubs revenue, fan are everywhere in country who would love to see their team play until it harms ur livelihood.

    We need a turn around from what we are doing right now. I am a three star fan n i would love to go every saturday to stadium to see my team play.

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  6. And for the establishment of Academies around the country, it will not happen overnight.
    Even clubs of english 2,3rd division cannot afford it fully. It will take time and if proper clubs and franchises are developed, it will surely happen in few years of time.
    Its about time for nepal to start professionalism in football and play international club tournaments like AFC cup and possibly if we are lucky AFC champions league, rather than this current presidents cup which are played by basically semi professional teams of asia.

    we have potential, we have craze and passion, all it is needed is to start making use of passion and craze outside valley. odd tournament for a week every year wouldnt help anything. Its about time to take giant leap

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  7. @Pravash - wonderful suggestions. ANFA is moving towards a national league, but their execution has been poor as they are allowing village teams that have no access to facilities or revenues participate. Already two big clubs (Sahara and Knight Chess) have been knocked out of the qualifying rounds by minnows who will struggle to survive (financially, etc.) in the national league. Let's see what happens.

    Yes, academies are costly, but clubs that cannot afford them could alternatively have "football for all" or after-school programs.

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