26 November 2014

Sports in South Asia needs to raise its game

(An edited version of this article originally appeared in Republica)

A short while ago I was asked to write a tribute for a silver medal winning South Asian sportsman for a local organization about to honor him. When doing research for the homage, I stumbled upon a rather peculiar fact that most media members must have missed-out on or chose to ignore. It turns out there were only two people competing in the competition. The silver medal was assured!

Unfortunately, these types of sporting anomalies or lucky breaks, however you want to look at it, are what South Asian sports fans most times must hope for to see their fellow countrymen find a place on the medal podium of major international tournaments.

South Asia’s track record in high level sports is abysmal. A South Asian team has never made the FIFA World Cup and in the past half-century has not come anywhere close to qualifying. After capturing 11 gold medals over the span of 13 Summer Olympic Games, South Asian field hockey sides have failed to even medal for the last 22 years. With 1.7 billion inhabitants, a quarter of the world’s population, Indian shooter Abhinav Bindra is the sole person from the region that can claim an Olympic gold medal in the past 3 decades. In that period, India has won a paltry 3 silver and 8 bronze medals, Sri Lanka 1 silver, Pakistan and Afghanistan 2 bronze each, while Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal have not won a single medal at the Olympics.

Based on per capita, the regions results at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games are nothing to boast about either. Thank god for cricket!

12 October 2014

Sports Contribution Award

Immensely honored to receive the Sports Contribution Award from my fellow NRNs. My journey in Nepali sports has been a wonderful adventure, in large part due to the guidance and support of so many friends and well-wishers who are working tirelessly on the ground to help develop sports in Nepal. A massive thank you to them and congratulations to the other honorees.

01 September 2014

Think big money is destroying football? You are in the minority

Pretty much all the Aston Villa
fans you'll find in Kathmandu
As the European football season gets underway and the transfer window closes, every year a slew of articles spring-up chastising the orgy of spending by the big clubs and make dire predictions of fan revolt and how football will be damaged beyond repair by big money.

I say phooey! The fact is the great majority of football fans pretty much support the 10 to 12 super clubs out there. All the minnow sides combined only account for a small minority of fans. A great example of this was a few days back when I attended a gathering of Aston Villa supporters in Kathmandu (I’m a proud Villan!). All together there were 3 of us at the meeting. On my way to the event I probably passed about a dozen people on the street wearing shirts of Barcelona, Chelsea, Arsenal and the likes.

Other than perhaps a handful of Manchester United fans distraught that Manchester City now has the same financial muscle as them, I doubt it is much of a stretch to say those super club fans are not in any despair about big money in football. On the contrary, fans of clubs like Real Madrid are probably sprinting to a local printing shop to get JAMES printed on the back of their jerseys.

02 July 2014

After disastrous World Cup, how does Asian football turn things around?

Photo: AFC Facebook page
In what many are calling the most memorable FIFA World Cup in recent memory, the performances of Asian teams at Brazil 2014 were anything but.

Non-European regions achieved unprecedented success in Brazil. Five South American teams reached the knockout rounds of the tournament, while three North American and two African nations also advanced to the Round of 16.

It seems Asia lost its invitation to the party. The accumulated tally of the Asian sides was a miserable zero wins, three draws and nine defeats. Furthermore, some of the performances like Japan-Colombia, South Korea-Algeria and Australia-Spain were downright dreadful for nations that have plenty of World Cup pedigree.

22 June 2014

Golden Rule invalid in life and sports business

Wonder why I do not wish anyone a happy birthday? The Golden Rule told me not to.

I am not big on birthdays. Never liked them, hardly ever celebrate them. As a minimalist I don’t like presents. Usually they only add clutter to my life and closet. Similarly cake only adds inches to my already burgeoning waistline.

For me birthdays are just another day. If I want to go to a special event or a nice restaurant I just go. If I need something, I just buy it. I don’t need to wait until the day of my birth to do those things.

14 May 2014

Hindi website a waste for global sports brands

Perhaps due to the buzz generated by the IPL cricket competition, it seems global sports brands are falling over themselves to tap into the Indian market these days. No longer is India only about Bollywood and BPOs, bats and balls are also making great headway in the country.

Just the other day I was reading an article in which a prominent owner of a sports club talked about how he wants his team to make inroads into the lucrative Indian market. One idea he floated was his club potentially launching a Hindi language website to lure Indian fans.

Whether the Hindi language website plan was serious or just a convenient example that popped out of his mouth during the interview is not clear. Either way, the idea is a total waste of time and resources, and goes to highlight the importance of really understanding a market before attempting to conquer it.

11 March 2014

Management decisions that led to Machhindra’s success

Monitoring news media headlines and social media posts, NMB Bank Machhindra FC’s (MFC) spectacular run in the RedBull League, going unbeaten in its last twelve games and winning all five Super-Six matches including back-to-back-to-back dramatic victories against Three Star, Manang Marsyangdi and Nepal Police Club, was one of the big stories of this year’s tournament.

Along with high acclaim for Machhindra’s Swedish head coach, Johan Kalin and a gritty squad that did not include a single national team player and consisted of only two foreigners, there was also quite a bit of praise heaped on MFC’s management for the team’s success.

As someone inside Machhindra’s management team, I’d like to share a few of the key management decisions that helped catapult MFC, a club with relatively limited resources, into 2nd position in the RedBull League and be dubbed in some quarters as the “People’s champion of Nepal”.