23 November 2012

Acclimatizing fans

How does a sports entity implement a decision that will be highly controversial with their fanbase? Acclimatize them! Below are two cases.


A few years back when I heard news that FC Barcelona, one of the few soccer clubs that for the longest time had never sported a corporate logo on their jerseys, were going to have UNICEF printed across their kits it was clear to me that this was simply the first step in Barcelona signing a proper shirt sponsorship agreement down the road.

The UNICEF deal actually was kind of a reverse sponsorship in which Barcelona gave UNICEF free publicity by putting the organization’s logo on the club’s kits along with a substantial financial donation. Such a deal made it very difficult for traditional Barcelona fans who ardently cherished the fact that their club never sported any sponsorship logos on its uniforms to protest the move. After all, what type of heartless soul would complain about helping a charity that saves the lives of children across the world?

The deal with UNICEF was a shrewd one. It was a way to acclimatize Barcelona fans to eventually seeing corporate sponsorship logos on their prized jerseys.

Soon after the UNICEF deal, Barcelona had an agreement that placed Qatar Foundation’s logo on the front of their kits. Even though Qatar Foundation, like UNICEF, is a charity, this time it would be the foundation or their backers (Qatar Sports Investment) that would pay Barcelona – a whopping 30 million Euros a year. The partnership of a charity giving money to a club was an odd one, thus it probably left Barcelona fans scratching their heads instead of marching against the club’s directors.

Shortly after the Qatar Foundation deal, the inevitable news that a corporate logo would appear on the Barcelona shirts was disclosed. Qatar Airways would now "conveniently" replace Qatar Foundation as Barcelona's shirt sponsor. See what they did here:  Charity logo (free) à Charity logo (paid) à Corporate Sponsor logo. So in a few short years Barcelona went from a club that would perhaps never sport a corporate logo on their jerseys to one that will potentially have the largest shirt sponsorship deal on the planet. All that with limited fuss from their rabid fanbase because of the club’s brilliant strategy in acclimatizing their fans to the sight of corporate logos on their kits.

Notre Dame

Another fabled football program (be it a different type of football) is attempting to steal Barcelona’s playbook. Notre Dame, a powerhouse in American college athletics, announced that they will move the majority of their athletic programs from the Big East Conference to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Furthermore, as a part of the deal with the ACC, Notre Dame’s football program, which has long been an independent, will play five ACC opponents annually.

Like Barcelona fans that cherished their clean kits, Notre Dame fans take pride in the fact that their university is an independent in football and not affiliated with any conference. Any move to join a conference in football will most likely be met with great resistance by their fans.

The Notre Dame leadership – who probably feel that joining a conference will be necessary down the road - seems to be using the same acclimatization tactics to get around this sensitive issue. First have most of their non-football teams leave the weaker Big East Conference for the stronger ACC. Tell fans that the condition for joining the ACC is that they would have to play a handful of football games annually against ACC foes. After a few years of fans becoming accustomed to playing ACC teams in football, undoubtedly the endgame is to make a full move to the conference. By then it will be much more palatable to the fanbase.

Update: With the recent Big Ten expansion Notre Dame might be pressured to join a conference sooner than later.

07 October 2012

Good karma?

After completing a 10 day Vipassana meditation course in Budhanilkantha I went to change my Qatar Airways ticket. The ticket agent just so happened to be a former football player and resident of Budhanilkantha and asked me if I could help the kids in the area who were eager to play football. Obviously I had to fulfill my karmic duty :)

05 October 2012

Support for youth football

I feel privileged to be able to provide football equipment worth Rs. 1 Lakh, including over a 100 soccer balls, amongst five different clubs across Nepal that are doing outstanding work in youth football.

I hope the donation brings awareness to the wonderful initiatives of these clubs, motivates them to keep at it and inspires other clubs/grassroots groups to follow their example.

The fabulous five clubs are:

Bansbari Club (Kathmandu) – One of only a handful of ‘A’ division clubs that run regular youth football training, the club has decided to annually set aside 25% of their budget for youth football development.

Biratnagar Sports Club – Around a 100 kids from age 10 and above train regularly at Sahid Maidan. BSC has also helped other clubs around Morang District and conducted coaching and refereeing courses targeted at youths. 

Oshonik Club (Nepalgunj) – Has been conducting youth football training and clinics all across Banke district with a strong focus on girls football.

Social Welfare Sports Center (Nayabazar Dhara, Kathmandu) – Run regular youth football training for boys and girls of all ages. Several of their alumni are now playing for “A” Division clubs.

The Oceans Club (Gorkha) – Conduct youth football training and most recently organized a district wide under-14 tournament.

01 July 2012

The challenge is in the numbers

Approximately 500 schools will participate in this years ANFA Coca-Cola Cup schools tournament. As the event is a knockout competition, that means 250 out of the 500 participating schools will play 1 game in the tournament. 125 schools will play 2 games, about 64 will play 3 games, 32 will play 4 games and so on and so on. The two teams that reach the finals of the tournament will play about 8 matches in total.

Football development experts believe that youth players should play around 40 competitive matches a year. In Japan they play on average a staggering 120 or so games annually!

The Coca-Cola Cup is a great youth tournament. We just need more youth tournaments like it.

Similarly, ANFA Academy is a formidable Academy. We need more Academies like it.

Birat Shrestha is a terrific Coach. We need more Coaches like him.

Himalayan Sherpa Club is an ambitious Club. We need more Clubs like it.

Bhoj Raj Shahi (Oshonik Club director) is a passionate Volunteer. We need more Volunteers like him.

Manju Khadgi (Three Star Club fan) is a devoted Supporter. We need more Supporters like her.

The challenge for Nepali football development is in the numbers. It is not just what we are doing, but how much of it we are doing.

25 June 2012

ANFA needs to Google

Poor ANFA. By far the most active and networked sports federation in Nepal just can’t seem to get it right. Despite all of ANFA’s best efforts Nepal’s national teams continue to time after time come up short in international competitions.

It’s been 18 long years since Nepal achieved a noteworthy result in a tournament of real significance. The AFC Under-22 qualifyiers is but the latest event at which a Nepali national team flamed out on the big stage.

Despite home field advantage, over a months closed-camp training and better benefits than what players of old could dream of receiving, Nepal’s U22s went down to a very mediocre Yemen side and above average Jordanian and Uzbek teams. They did demolish the Bangladeshis, though the fact that all four goals of a traditionally diminutive Nepali side came from headers raises serious questions about the strength of the opposition.

As always after a tournament most are quick to second-guess the coaching, the preparations and the players. Already many are pointing to the lack of friendly matches leading-up to the U22 qualifiers as the culprit. Which is odd because Nepal actually won its first game 4-1 and put on a fairly formidable performance in its second match against Yemen, so it is not like it took a few matches for Nepal to gain its form.

Anyway, these types of micro-analysis are just distractions. What needs to actually be analyzed is not the reasons Nepal failed in this particular tournament, but why Nepali football has been underperforming for 18 years despite an amazing amount of passion and support for soccer in the country.

Why is it that even with the establishment of ANFA Academy, regular club tournaments, several youth competitions and all sorts of rewards and prizes for players Nepal’s international record has not improved?

The problem is that while ANFA may work hard, they do not work smart.  They have been trying to develop a “special sauce” that will take Nepali football to the next level but unfortunately that “special sauce” has been leaving nothing but a bad taste in the mouths of Nepali football fans.

What ANFA needs to do is Google for the right recipe! Instead of trying to create their own “special sauce” it would make far more sense for ANFA to simply choose a tried and tested formula.

In todays information age the best practices in world football are accessible to everyone with just a few clicks on the computer. It is therefore absolutely puzzling to see ANFA so hell bent on doing things their own way instead of just copying what has proven to work around the world.

If ANFA started to Google, what they would find is that:

  • To create top class players you need top class coaches
  • To have a large pool of talents for the National Teams, players need to be training regularly with their clubs
  • Club leagues should be 8-10 months long and played on weekends
  • A football match is a product and fans are the consumers and thus should be treated as such
  • A strong mass base of kids playing football is essential to unearth top quality players
  • Youth football starts as early as age 5 or 6
  • Selection for youth teams needs to be dynamic and not static

On the other hand:

  • Selecting a player at age 12 and hoping one day he will become the next Xavi does not work
  • A 3 month long club league along with a bunch of Mickey-Mouse tournaments does not work
  • A president of a football association sitting on the players bench does not work

Pointing the finger at ANFA is convenient but this argument can easily be extended to all stakeholders in Nepali football including clubs, sports media and fans, all of whom also have failed to adopt many of football’s best practices.

So the next time ANFA or other Nepali football stakeholders start devising their “special sauce” for success hopefully it will be in front of a computer and not on the back of a napkin.

14 June 2012

Journalist vs. Blogger

Lots of times I get grilled by people on why I am not writing about x,y,z topic or going after a,b and c persons. Well, I loved this take by New York Mets blogger Matthew Cerrone on proper journalism versus blogging. It encapsulates my own feelings on the subject.
"I don’t see myself as a journalist. Journalists should always be in the business of seeking more information as they aim to determine truth. I [as a blogger] do that sometimes, but not all of the time. There are some things I just don’t care about. If I don’t care about it, or I’m simply tired of writing about a topic, or if I don’t find it interesting, then I don’t write about it or ask questions about it. There is only so much time in the day and my true love is watching the Mets and hoping they win. That filter and my judgement has done me well in connecting with fans and building the blog. On the flip side, if it’s a topic I do find interesting, I’ll research it and write about it and if that happens to run up against the definition of a journalist (because every one else wants to know about it as well) so be it, but it’s more of a coincidence and a label than anything else."

01 June 2012

High-profile owners unlikely

Photo from Cinesansar.com
The big football news of the day was that of Shah Rukh Khan potentially acquiring a 50% stake in Indian powerhouse side Dempo Sports Club.

Obviously such news immediately gets Nepali football fans dreaming of local corporates and celebrities investing in our own clubs.  Could famed actor Rajesh Hamal make a play for RCT or business tycoon Upendra Mahato start a Roman Abramovich style revolution at NRT?

The quick answer is unlikely. Unless they are truly football ‘pagal’, there are basically only two reasons to invest in a football club – fortune and fame. Neither is really accessible in the current Nepali club football environment.


There are four main revenue generators for football clubs – ticket sales, sponsorship, merchandising and TV rights. In the current Nepali football context two of them – ticket sales and TV rights do not really exist (Nepali clubs do not have the authority to sell their own tickets or the TV rights to their matches as everything is centralized with ANFA). Merchandising has limited potential and sponsorship cannot be maximized unless clubs own their own stadium (As they have no rights to hoarding boards, stadium partnerships and hospitality, etc.).

This begs the question, how exactly would a football club plan to break-even? It is not completely impossible but it would require a visionary owner who is willing to make a substantial investment in a club. First and foremost they would need a stadium plan, be it to build a new one or renovate/rent an existing facility as there is absolutely no way a club can be sustainable if they do not have access to ticket revenues.


One of the big allures of owning a football club is the prestige, networks and perks that come along with it.  Who ever heard of Roman Abramovich or Venkys Group before their takeover of Chelsea and Blackburn respectfully? Today they are hobnobbing with top footballers and have access to many of the most influential businessmen and celebrities around the planet. These are privileges that owning a Premier League club bring.

What exactly would a potential investor get from owning Three Star or Sankata? Dinner with Rohit Chand and Sagar Thapa? Access to Lalit Krishna Shrestha and Indraman Tuladhar?  An exclusive  personal interview in the Kantipur or with GoalNepal? Trust me, just the offer of one plate of MoMo would be enough to secure any of the above benefits. No need to purchase a football club!

So with no fortune and no fame, basically we are left with the third alternative – finding a big-time investor that is absolutely football ‘pagal’ and willing to burn wads of cash on their obsession. Know anyone that fits the profile? 

22 May 2012

Machhindra banner

Here are a few more photos of my Machhindra FC banner:

Banner in all its glory!

The mighty White Lion

My neighborhood is Chappal Karkhana - get it?

Reverse angle

14 May 2012

Strong fan culture needed

Nepalis are some of the most passionate football fans in the world. Where else in the world will you find packed stadiums supporting a national team and club sides that have failed miserably for the last 20 years?

Despite the fantastic enthusiasm we Nepalis have for football, the one area where we come-up terribly short is in terms of fan culture. At stadiums and grounds across the country there is a lot of “Ha-Hoo”, but very little of the sounds and colors that make viewing a football match so entertaining.

A big part of the charm of watching European club football or the World Cup is witnessing the crowds. The Dutch fans all clad in Orange, Brazilian supporters grooving to Samba beats, Manchester City fans celebrating by doing the Poznan and the amazing tifos organized by Italian club loyalists.

It is uncommon to find anything like that in Nepal. Fans wearing team colors, organizing chants or carrying flags and banners is as rare as a Nepali National Team striker scoring a goal in a meaningful game. Thus the atmosphere at many football matches tends to be very bland.

Part of the issue is that many Nepali clubs, even today, do not play in consistent colors. Many times they settle for whatever is available at local sports shops across Kathmandu. Also they do not make club merchandise (jerseys, t-shirts, scarves) available to their supporters or arrange any sort of programs to develop and organize their fan base.

Furthermore, Nepali media have been slow to romanticize football. Other than GoalNepal, media outlets rarely try to create nicknames for players, clubs and derby matches. Until very recently, team logos and uniform templates very seldom were displayed in previews and reviews of matches or on league standings. Therefore fans lacked the impetus to create supporting materials.

Fans themselves also have been quite unmoved to be proactive. Most disappointing are the supporters who spend many hours developing fan clubs devoted to English Premier League clubs yet can’t be bothered to do the same for their local clubs or even the National Team.

Strong fan culture brings with it tremendous benefits to Nepali football. Think of how many more fans would start attending league matches if atmosphere at games went up a few notches – for example Three Star fans all dressed in blue on one side of the stadium waving flags and NRT fans in green on the other side singing for 90 minutes.

With a livelier crowd, the intimidation factor for visiting teams also goes up, giving the National Team or Nepali club sides better prospects to win the match.

Also some of the ills of Nepali football such as match fixing would be potentially curtailed. Imagine the pressure players or club officials will feel when knowing that hundreds of their fans will be at the match rooting passionately for their team. Certainly it should give them pause before attempting to manipulate a match.

Me and Machhindra

As one who likes to put his money where his mouth is, I’ve tried my best to drum-up fan culture at Machhindra FC, the club I root for, whether it is by initiating their Facebook Page (someone else runs it now), wearing club colors to matches and even taking a Machhindra FC banner to Nepal U16 National Team matches in Singapore.

Most recently I created a five meter banner that reads “White Lions” – the nickname of Machhindra FC. I simply can’t wait to hang it up the next time Machhindra plays at Rangashala. 

08 May 2012

Rock bottom

After losing to Afghanistan in the semifinals of the SAFF Championship, Nepal's disastrous AFC Challenge Cup, and now NPC's blowout loss to Dordoi Dynamo, coupled with a loss to Cambodian minnows Phnom Penh Crown in the AFC Presidents Cup, all of which come in some of Asia's weakest football tournaments, it is safe to say Nepali football has hit rock bottom.

And with no sound club, youth, administration, coach and referee development programs previously or currently in place, the future of Nepali football looks terrifyingly bleak.

06 May 2012

Importance of coaching

Today I was reminded once again how important coaching is in sports. I stumbled upon a school level athletics meet at Dasharath Rangashala and was shocked at how poor the running mechanics of the athletes were. There were so many basic things the kids could do that would easily improve their time by a few seconds, but no one must have taught them and I presume even their coaches probably are not informed about proper running techniques.

My guess is that the top athletes in this meet will go on for years using incorrect technique and by the time they are ready to compete in a top class tournament they will be spending their time un-learning their bad techniques, instead of going forward and learning advanced training methods.

That's why I firmly believe the first thing any sports organization should do to raise the standard of their sport is to develop top class coaches who will teach kids from an early age proper techniques in their respective sports.

29 April 2012

"Better than expected"

Tom Byer in Dharan
I was privileged to have been invited by Roots Fashion, the Adidas distributor in Nepal, to shadow renowned Japanese youth football coach Tom Byer during his visit to Nepal. Together we toured various football facilities, watched football training and matches at all levels and Coach Byer also conducted two youth football coaching clinics in Kathmandu and Dharan.

One recurring phrase I kept hearing Coach Byer use during his visit was, “Better than expected.” Whether it was Shahid Stadium in Biratnagar or an Under 14 match we went to see at Budhanilakantha School or the British Gurkha Cup match we watched – everything was “Better than expected.”

The reasons for Coach Byer’s initial low expectations were understandable. When visiting Dasharath Rangasala he was informed that it was the only decent stadium in Nepal. When he was at the Under 14 match, one of the teams arrived half-an-hour late and seemed to have no sense of urgency whatsoever to put on their uniforms and warm-up. When visiting the training of one of Nepal’s biggest clubs he was shocked to see that the team did not even have practice uniforms. Even Coach Byer’s press conference announcing the launch of his football training DVD in Nepali had to be rescheduled at the last moment because ANFA only the night before decided to change the start time of the semi-final matches of the British Gurkha Cup.

So when Coach Byer entered Shahid Stadium and noticed that it was not much different than a Brazilian ground or when he saw how skillful the U14 kids were or when he witnessed how lively a Nepali club match can be – he was quite impressed, everything was actually “Better than expected.”

In a way Nepali football is just like a Nepali wedding – total chaos up to the night before the ceremony, but at the end everything seems to come together, one way or another, and most times it is even quite enjoyable.

There is a famous adage – “The devil is in the details.” There are perhaps over a hundred small little details that we could improve to develop Nepali football further. Imagine if our stadiums were maintained regularly and not just before a cup tournament or if our youth players were instilled with more discipline to show up on time or our clubs conducted training a bit more professionally with proper uniforms or the schedule for a tournament would be thought-through weeks in advance giving fans time to prepare for a match. I would venture to guess that just paying attention to these types of small details would raise the level of Nepali football by 10-15%, which would be enough to beat the likes of Afghanistan and Maldives on a regular basis.

With all the challenges Nepal and ANFA faces these days – talk of a new international stadium, a world renowned National Team coach or regular international friendlies against top class opposition are all unrealistic. Instead we need to concentrate on the things we can control and easily improve. Pay attention to all the small details we often neglect and surely the results for our club and national teams will be a lot “Better than expected.”

11 April 2012

Under 14 friendly matches

A few days back I was at Machhindra Under 14 team's training at FutsalArena and broke the news to the trainees that ANFA's Under 14 tournament that was supposed to be days away was going to be postponed for several months. The kids were absolutely devastated.

I then quickly thought to myself that there must be several other clubs that had started youth training who were also feeling the same anguish and frustrations as that of Machhindra boys. Immediately I took out my mobile and called the clubs I knew were running youth football training. A few minutes later - BOOM! Four clubs - Machhindra, Friends, Social Welfare Sports Center (SWSC) and Bansbari agreed to play a series of friendly matches against each other.

Bansbari Club and SWSC players before the match
Two games in, I've been completely taken aback by how wonderful the Under 14 matches have been - both on and off the pitch. On the pitch - the skills on display is quite impressive and all the matches have been very entertaining. There have been many outstanding goals, saves, passes and dribbles. Everyone I know that attended the games have thoroughly enjoyed watching the budding talents and commented that these types of matches need to be held regularly.
Friends vs Machhindra (U14)

Off the pitch there have been so many beautiful sights. Kids having the opportunity to travel to games and play on proper fields in new surroundings. Teams being open and honest about ages of players, a few who might be a year or two over-age. Terrific sportsmanship with players helping each other up, coaches and fans applauding great plays from both sides, complete respect for the referee and hugs and handshakes after the match. Most memorable for me was seeing a young girl take the field for SWSC. And she went toe-to-toe with the boys!
Binita Tamang played for SWSC as a striker against Bansbari
In a football environment that is plagued by match fixing, age cheating, rowdy fans and incompetent officials, the U14 friendly matches have so far been a real breath of fresh air.

22 March 2012

Youth football

In football at least, Nepal in the mid-2000s did very well in youth tournaments, but that was because the Nepali team was results oriented while other teams were much more development focused.

Results in youth tournaments are not always a good indicator of the strength of youth football in a country as different countries have different objectives for tournaments. For example, Japan usually sends a local school team to the AFC Festival of Football. On the other hand Nepal's U13/14 team comprises of ANFA Academy players that have been living and training together for 2/3 years! They play to their strengths and always try to win, while more mature football nations might take a long term approach and choose to work on their weaknesses and sacrifice results. (And there are some other issues in play which I rather not discuss publicly).

At the end of the day 40, 60, 80 or even 100 kids training in a sole football academy is not going to take Nepali football to the next level. We need tens of thousands kids playing organized football under the supervision of competent coaches. That can only happen if ANFA, clubs and local communities work together.

11 March 2012

Cycle of Doom

If this article sounds familiar, you are not mistaken. I have probably written a similar piece about 5 times in the last 15 years. That is because Nepali football for the last two decades has been in a perpetual “Cycle of Doom”. In my hometown of New York City we call it, “Same shit, different day”.

It’s not an exact science, but here is basically how the Cycle of Doom goes:

1)      Nepal appoints a foreign coach (Stephen Constantine, Torsten Spittler, Graham Roberts) and the coach starts making grand proclamations, wears Nepali “topi” and sings lullabies with the players sending fans into a frenzy. (In fairness, Torsten Spittler was strictly business and did not engage in the aforementioned)

2)      Nepal hosts a major international tournament (SAFF Cup 1997, South Asian Games 1999, AFC Presidents Cup 2005, AFC Challenge Cup 2012) and fans and media think that a golden age in Nepali football is about to start.

3)      Nepal or Nepal’s club representative disappoints in the major international tournament (Basanta Gauchan’s tears-1999, Nirazan Khadka’s agony-2005, Graham Robert’s, “Ask the players” comment-2012)

4)      Nepal/ANFA/Ganesh Thapa gets recognized by FIFA/AFC (FIFA Rankings-2012/2011, Ganesh Thapa becomes AFC Vice President/AFC Gold Medal, Nepal nominated for AFC Association of the Year award-2005) distracting fans and media form the core problems facing Nepali football

5)      Nepal/Nepali Club wins meaningless tournament (Prime Ministers Cup, Subroto Mukerjee Cup (U14), Sikkim Governors Gold Cup) creating false hope

6)      Nepal/Nepali Club gets its ass kicked in FIFA/AFC tournament and Biplav Gautam writes another one of his articles that Nepal needs to focus on developing coaches and youth football

7)      Nepal/Nepali Club whips inferior side (Macau-2001, Abahani Limited-2008, East Timor-2011) but fans and media think we just defeated Brazil/Real Madrid so expectations are high once more

8)      The Cycle of Doom starts again (go back to #1)

At the end of each Cycle of Doom senior sports journalists leave their trade to start NGOs, while die-hard fans get married and have kids and are not able to religiously follow Nepali football anymore, thus we are left with fans and media persons in diapers who think Nepali football’s history began only yesterday and that “Nepal’s fortunes will change once we find a decent striker”.

Sorry kids but Nepali football has been around 80+ years. New Road Team (NRT) is over 75 years-old, ANFA over 50, ANFA Academy has been in place for 13 years. When Naresh Joshi and Nirajan Raymajhi were banging in goals for fun, the problem was defenders, with Graham Roberts’ “World Class backline” (his words, not mine), striking is the issue.

Our National Team hasn’t beaten Maldives, a country smaller than Bhaktapur that is about sink into the Indian Ocean because of Global Warming, in ages. In the meantime clubs from countries like Myanmar and Taiwan have gone from chumps to champs in less than half-a-decade winning the last two editions of the AFC Presidents Cup respectively.

Breaking the Cycle of Doom

So how do we turn the Cycle of Doom into a Cycle of Boom? If you have read my past articles, you have heard it all before, so I’ll be very brief.

Our present challenge is that our current National Team players are simply not good enough to compete at the international level. That is why just one National Team member, Rohit Chand, plays for a foreign club. We need players of a higher standard and that will only come about if we have a large pool of players and intense competition for places.

To develop top talents you first need quality coaches (not tens but hundreds) and a youth system where thousands of kids (not just 40 at the ANFA Academy) are playing organized football and training under the guidance of competent coaches.

There is no rocket-science involved, ANFA as well as clubs, schools and communities need to invest heavily on coaching and youth football. Yes, it’s that simple.

05 March 2012

I really don’t know much about football

Usually when a big soccer tournament comes around I get quite a few requests from the Nepali media to give insights. I’ve always refused because the truth is I really don’t know much about football – well at least the tactical aspects of each game.

Sure, I know a lot of the theoretical stuff – like if you have a team of midgets you need to keep the ball on the ground, but watching a game live I really couldn’t tell you if a player was out of position or the formation changes that the coaches might have made as the game progressed.

The reason for this is that my eyes always drift away from the pitch. My background is in Sports Marketing and Sports Management (as in managing a league, not players) thus I’m much more interested in how the advertising hoardings look than how the defensive backline is holding up. When I’m at game I’m busy analyzing the match day experience, stadium layout, ticketing system, fan interaction, security, food and drinks available and even if the number of urinals in the restrooms is adequate for the size of the crowd. I can’t even begin to count the number of goals I've missed while at a game because I was too busy trying to figure-out where all the TV cameras were stationed.

The reason I will not be attending any of the high profile AFC Challenge Cup matches is because I’ve been to enough of these types of tournaments to have a good idea on all of the above mentioned aspects of the match/tournament, so I have little interest in dealing with the crowds, parking problems, and transportation issues that come along with going to night matches at Dasharath Rangasala.

I’ll just watch the tournament from the comfort of my home and let you know if the match commentators were up to standard, how good or bad the camera angles were and if the halftime commercials provided any value to the advertisers. And if I do go off track and tell you that a certain player stinks, it probably means he’s bloody brilliant!

03 February 2012

Nepali players mentioned by Premier League club

OK, so the the title is a bit deceiving :)

Aston Villa, my favorite club (cough, cough), posted a photo of Azad Pradhan, Kiran Limbu and Buddha Chemzong on their Facebook page. Here's the caption:
Villa donated a set of kits and other football equipments to Machhindra FC, a club based in Kathmandu, Nepal. The young goalkeeper in the center of the photo , Kiran Limbu, is now Nepal's 1st choice National Team Goalkeeper. The two other players Azad Pradhan (left) and Buddha Chemzong (right) play in Nepal's premier division. Looks like the Villa kits must have inspired the lads! Photo taken in 2006.

28 January 2012

Nepal's football development in our hands

Have you been to the official ANFA website (www.the-anfa.com) recently? No need to waste bandwidth visiting it, I can assure you - it is hopeless!

Photo: Gopal Chitrakar (Reuters)
However shoddy the ANFA website might be, no one is really complaining about it. Why? Because there are plenty of alternatives, like GoalNepal, that give us all the Nepali football news, results and multimedia we are looking for.

But imagine if there were no websites like GoalNepal. We would probably all be kicking and screaming about how ANFA is not doing its job, that ANFA has the wrong priorities, that ANFA does not care about the fans and that the Government of Nepal should donate a few laptops and servers to ANFA.

With GoalNepal and the many other up and coming Nepali football/sports websites, blogs and Facebook Pages out there – whether ANFA has a good or bad website really is inconsequential. The Nepali football information we desire is easily accessible anyway.

Nepal’s Internet sports information boom proves that not everything needs to start from the top. The Government of Nepal (GON), National Sports Council (NSC) and ANFA are currently just too politicized and have too many vested interests to deliver sound planning and strategy to take football and sports in Nepal to a level that hardcore fans dream about. It will thus be private individuals, groups and organizations that will have to play the lead role in developing Nepali football.

We are already seeing this in action sporadically across the country.

• Nepal Sports Journalist Forum (NSJF) annually hosts the Sports Award which has done much to motivate and encourage aspiring footballers and other sportsmen.

• Oshonik Club runs women’s football camps across the Western region and many of Nepal’s women footballers have ties to the Nepalgunj based club.

Social Welfare Sports Center conducts youth training in the Nayabazaar Dhara neighborhood of Kathmandu and has produced several Martyrs League ‘A’ Division level players.

• Sahara Club every year hosts the Aaha Gold Cup, which has become Nepal’s preeminent Football Cup Tournament and has helped inspire others clubs and communities to also organize similar events.

• NRNs and Nepalis working abroad have been making a contribution to football in a variety of ways including equipment/financial donations and as liaisons between promising Nepali players and foreign clubs.

• Ambitious entrepreneurs opened up the Futsal Arena in Thamel.

And right on cue, Nepal’s top soccer star Rohit Chand just the other day donated Rs. 30,000 worth of equipment to help support football in the MidWestern Region.

The current challenge is that in Nepal there are only a handful of people like Bhoj Raj Shahi (Founder and President of Oshonik Club) and Bikram Thapa (Founder and Editor of GoalNepal) out there who are working passionately day and night to do their part to uplift football in Nepal, while in other parts of the globe there are thousands if not tens of thousands similar persons.

Though billion dollar clubs like Barcelona and Manchester United grab all the headlines, we need to remember that 95% of the worldwide football ecosystem is made up of clubs, tournaments, coaches, referees, administrators, etc. that are mostly run and operated by locals and volunteers.

Unfortunately in Nepal we still have a tendency to look to higher powers, be it God, Government or Ganesh [Thapa] (i.e. ANFA), to solve all our problems and the attitude of “If they are not doing anything, why should I?” prevails. As an example, there are perhaps over a thousand registered football clubs across the country, but only several dozen could be deemed as “active”. If you talk to the leadership of most Nepali clubs they’ll blame their inactivity on the lack of support from the three “G’s” mentioned above.

Undoubtedly, it would be ideal if the grassroots football movement worked closely with and were supported by top level institutions (GON, NSC, ANFA). However it is not essential, especially in this day and age with so many resources available at our finger tips. With the Internet and other new media channels we can all be football experts, we can all develop links, we can all raise awareness and funds for projects we are passionate about.

Tons of coaching, sports management, marketing information and resources can be found online. You no longer have to attend AFC or FIFA courses to understand how football works. Being an ANFA official is not a prerequisite to communicate with the international football fraternity.

The power to develop football in Nepal is essentially in our hands. So stop fantasizing about what the Government, NSC and ANFA could do, should do, needs to do and roll-up your sleeves and simply do it yourself! Start a fan club, create a website, learn to be a coach, organize youth training, donate a football, teach your grandmother the offside rule – you’ll have made your contribution to Nepal's football revolution.