29 May 2022

Rangashala rebrand

Hard to believe that it's been 25 years that I've been involved in Nepali sports - more specifically football in the country. It all started in 1997, right after the 1st SAFF Cup, when I launched the Nepal Football Homepage, perhaps the first sports specific Nepali website. 

Since launching the website, which I closed down in the mid-2000s to focus on other initiatives, I've been involved in Nepali football in different capacities, amongst them: organizing grassroots programs, running a club, writing a sports column in a national newspaper and donating resources to different projects.

New branding for the Rangashala platform
In 2009, right after I left a role at the Asian Football Confederation to co-found a sports tech startup, I launched a blog focusing on Nepali sports topics that I titled Rangashala, which colloquially means 'stadium' in Nepali. In the first few years I ran the blog, I published close to 300 posts.  Recently though, I've hardly touched the platform, mainly as there wasn't really anything original to write about. What I wrote in 2009 still held relevance a decade later. Furthermore, with the proliferation of social media, it was easier to just give my opinions in 140 or 280 characters than to write a 1000 word post to the very niche crowd that read my blog.

In the last 12 months, primarily due to the launch of the Nepal Super League - which really helped to renew my interest in Nepali football, I've been posting consistently on my Facebook Page about Nepali sports. As the algorithms for Facebook Pages are pathetic and it is hard to get any decent reach (I don't like to post from my personal Facebook account as most of my friends are schoolmates and relatives who have little interest in Nepali sports), I went on to create a WhatsApp group where I repost my Facebook Page posts and other extra content so that keen followers don't miss anything.

While adding members to my WhatsApp group upon request, I was quite taken aback at how many people that reached out to me specifically mentioned being fans of Rangashala. It was as though Rangashala itself was a brand, even though surely they were referring to my posts on the blog. 

The timing of this revelation was perfect, as lately I have been considering how I could better get visibility for some of the many projects I am involved in. I have never felt comfortable highlighting my own name, so using a proxy brand like Rangashala would be ideal. For example, when I donate uniforms to a youth club they can just print the Rangashala logo on the kits as a sponsor. Certainly, that would be much more humble and pragmatic than having my name spelled out or even worse my photo printed on a jersey!  

I'm also looking forward to organizing a few sports business & development events and creating a community of aspiring Nepali sports managers for which Rangashala would be a fitting umbrella brand to put both these initiatives under.

Convinced of this concept, I hired a Nepali graphic artist to design the Rangashala logo and the artwork for the Rangashala website and Facebook Page. You can see the results for yourself. I personally am thrilled with the results. 

10 April 2022

There are no secrets in Nepali football

The other day I was on a very long call with a Nepali football official - let's call him Mr. X. He was going on about how deeply he cared about football and that he was one of the few "nishwartha" (selfless) people involved in the local game. Mr. X claimed he was a giver and not a taker and only had the best interests of Nepali football in his heart. He went on to talk about his decades service to football and listed a litany of his accomplishments - which frankly was not that impressive.

A few hours later I was on another call, this time with a local sports equipment store. I had ordered a bunch of footballs for an academy I am supporting.  I asked the sports equipment store owner for a discount on my purchase and he informed me that he always quotes me the very best rate, because unlike other football officials I don't ask for commission on my purchases. He then went on to give me an example of how one football official keeps asking him for very high margins on kickbacks and commissions thus he had no choice but to inflate his prices by almost 30-40% to them.  The name of that official? You guessed it - it was Mr. X! 

The fact is there are no secrets in Nepali football. Ones movements, meetings, conversations and behaviors are all tracked. Not by the state - North Korea style, but by a very close-knit society where everyone knows everyone and people love to gossip. Whether at weddings and festivals or by hotel managers and store keepers, word gets around and it gets around fast. It therefore really astounds me when Nepali football officials try to paint a false picture of themselves. Who are they trying to fool? Their secrets are out there for all to easily discover.

When I was directing Machhindra FC back in 2013/14, I would sometimes personally go to the Kalimati vegetable market to pick-up ingredients for our team meals. Many other clubs and ANFA also frequented the same market and coincidentally the same stalls. One of the vegetable sellers once showed me a few of the duplicate receipts he was producing for the different football organizations. Let's just say Nepali football players were eating some very expensive meals.