14 January 2018

Don't expect EPL T20 clone in football

Crowd at EPL finals at TU Ground. Photo courtesy of Udipt Singh Chhetry
By all accounts the Everest Premier League T20 tournament was a grand success. It saw good crowds, a strong stable of sponsors and formidable media interest. Moreover it had buzz. My Facebook timeline would be filled with posts from friends and acquaintances discussing the tournament. Even my buddies, who well know I am not a cricket aficionado, were texting me about the the ongoing action including  the peripheral "cricketainment", as event organizer Aamir Akhtar puts it, around the event.

For sports enthusiasts like myself, the EPL T20  showed that there is the capacity in Nepal to run a well marketed and fan friendly sports event. Hats off to the organizers.

So could we expect something similar in football perhaps?

At the local level tournaments such as the Aaha Gold Cup in Pokhara and the recent Khaptad Gold Cup in Dhangadhi do bring excitement to their localities, but the entertainment quotient is not quite up to par and these competitions lack national appeal. The onus to create something similar to the EPL T20 in football thus lies either with ANFA, the governing body of football in Nepal, or an entrepreneurial person or two from the private sector.

ANFA has failed to organize a top level league for the past 3 years, so certainly there is little hope in expecting them to do anything anytime soon. That then leaves the private sector.

Unfortunately, unlike its cricket brethren Cricket Association Nepal (CAN) that is dysfunctional, toothless, and currently suspended, ANFA is only dysfunctional. Toothless and suspended it is not and there lies the challenge.

Through its former president Ganesh Thapa, who essentially governs the national body by proxy and through family members embedded in the organization, ANFA maintains strong political links domestically which it continues to exploit to implement its nefarious modus operandi. For the past 25 years ANFA's M-O has essentially been to negatively disrupt any football initiatives that are not directly organized by itself. It is a case of "afoo pani nagarni, aroo lai pani garna nadini" (Not doing it yourself and not letting anyone else do it either).

A few of the bright spots in local football such as the proliferation of futsal courts is due its rapid rise blindsiding the football authorities or else futsal's growth may have also been derailed.

Ultimately, one can expect that any attempt to hire a ground, secure sponsors and develop media partnerships for an EPL T20 style football league being sabotaged by ANFA and its nexus, thus is the sad reality of football in Nepal.