11 June 2011

Nepal Government out of touch

Photo taken from Himalayan Times
ANFA needs to be congratulated for convincing the Government of Nepal in awarding cash prizes of Rs. 50,000 to each player on the Nepal National teams (mens and womens) that qualified for the AFC Challenge Cup finals and finished 2nd in the SAFF Womens Football Championship. That is a massive amount of money for essentially trivial accomplishments.

Nepal's Mens National Team has qualified for the final round of the AFC Challenge Cup before, so this by no means is a historic feat. To qualify they beat Afganistan, drew against Sri Lanka and lost to North Korea. Nothing spectacular there either, though ironically the 0-1 loss to North Korea, a FIFA World Cup participant, was probably the the most impressive result out of the three.

Nepal's Womens National Team finished second to India in the SAFF Womens Football Championship which basically comprised of India and a bunch of Muslim nations (Bangladesh, Pakistan, Maldives, etc.) where womens football is just sprouting.

So basically Nepal Government is giving Rs. 50,000 per player for beating Afghanistan, a country ranked lower than Nepal in the FIFA Rankings and reaching the finals of a virtually non-competitive tournament. As a football fan this is terrific! Well done ANFA! But as a Nepali this is ridiculous and sad. It just confirms how out of touch our government is.

Addendum: Nepal's Judo team bagged a few gold medals at the recent South Asian Judo Championships and Keshari Chaudhary just broke two national records in Athletics. I wonder how much Nepal Goverment is planning to award them? Surely it should be more than Rs. 50,000? (Don't bet on it!)

01 June 2011

Domestic sports have "SCOPE"!

Records holder Keshari Chaudhary
Keshari Chaudhary last week broke two national records in Athletics. Along with her previous record in the High Jump, she now also holds the womens records for the Triple Jump and Long Jump.

Her national records in any of those three disciplines would not be even good enough to qualify her for the Olympics. But does it really matter? She is the best Nepali at what she does and that's a great achievement in its own right.

(FYI - She's also a national level cricket player, thus arguably making her Nepal's top sportsman.)

I really wish Keshari's records garnered more fanfare. I for one would have loved to have been at the stadium to witness them. She and not the likes of the football team that won a meaningless international friendly tournament (i.e. Prime Ministers Cup) against weak opponents should be having audiences with our country's leaders.

All this leads me to my next point. The one phrase that really irks me when reading Nepali newspapers and forums is when sports journalists/fans and even sports officials talk about a certain sport "not having scope". If organized and developed properly, every sport except for maybe surfing (sorry but there are no beaches in Nepal) has scope. Just because we are unlikely to compete well at the international level does not mean we cannot have well run and exciting competitions domestically. Football and golf are the classic examples. We lag quite far behind other nations in those two sports but have immensely popular and well covered football and golf competitions.

In my eyes the sports that have the most scope in Nepal are actually ones we might perennially struggle in internationally because of our diminutive stature - such as basketball and volleyball. Due to our geography and the lack of parks and fields in major cities, basketball and volleyball are two sports that are well suited for the hilly regions and our schools and colleges which are all devoid of open spaces. As an example, basketball is a religion in the Philippines, but they do not have a single player in the NBA and their national team stinks, even at the Asian level! We ourselves should look to develop sports like basketball and not worry if a Nepali will ever be able dunk the ball like Blake Griffin.

Let's send the phrase "not having scope" to Arya Ghat and get excited about all domestic competitions and athletic achievements - like that of Keshari's, whether they are internationally significant or not. If it happens in Nepal, it's significant to us!

(Mea Culpa: I've not always held this sentiment - as you may have noticed if you read my Karishma Karki article a long time back, but I guess as we grow older we get wiser)