21 January 2024

Top flight football in Guatemala

Between all the AFCON and AFC Asian Cup matches online right now, I was able to catch some live football while in Guatemala and viewed the first match of the Liga Guate Clausura at the home stadium of Antigua GFC, the local club of the charming former colonial capital about one hour outside of Guatemala City. Some musings from the game:
  • Antigua GFC's mascot is an avocado! --->>
  • Quite a few tourists, many who are students at the local Spanish language schools, attended the game. Most of the gringos were gone by halftime
  • There was Taco Bell food available inside the stadium. They are one of the team's sponsors. It can thus be definitively said that Antigua GFC has better food at their games than Aston Villa or Arsenal (two Premier League teams whose matches I attended during the Christmas/New Years holidays)
  • Turnout was a few hundred people (at most maybe 1,000) and it was a fairly quiet and polite crowd
  • Standard of play was probably a little below USL Championship
  • There was enough merch on sale to satisfy hardcore supporters and plenty of fans were wearing team swag 

    Photos from the home match of Antigua GFC

16 January 2024

Nepal Super League - just keep it going!

Nepal Super League
Photo courtesy of Nepal Super League Facebook page

Due to travel and time zones, I did not get to catch as much of the second edition of the Nepal Super League (NSL) as I might have hoped. Nonetheless, I received regular updates via social media and from folks on the ground. Here are a few brief takeaways from the recently completed competition:

  • NSL is clearly a cut above any other football tournament in Nepal in terms of standard of play and marketing (both league and franchises). It provides a great benchmark for other soccer competitions in the country and contributes greatly to the football ecosystem

  • The NSL needs 3 or 4 more consecutive years of play to clearly embed itself in the football landscape. Continuity is key. Any potential hiatus and it risks becoming another political pawn in Nepali football politics - as it was in the last ANFA elections

  • NSL club franchises must be sustainable. If I am the NSL management, I take learnings from the likes of MLS (USA), ISL (India) and A-League (Australia) - all franchise leagues, and copy their best practices. Minimize costs, scale resources, create exclusivity and provide opportunities to generate revenues

  • You can't expect football fans in Kathmandu alone to sustain the NSL. Especially in an area that has so many other entertainment options. Games need to be played outside the Valley and franchises need to be able to tap into additional revenues a local fanbase and a dedicated venue can generate

NSL is on the right track and has been a great boon for domestic football. It has given football fans and observers a peek into the potential of Nepali football.  The main thing now is to just keep it going.