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.