29 April 2009

Sports Policy draft paper on the right track

The National Sports Policy Draft Suggestion Committee submitted its draft report to the Ministry of Sport the other day. I have not read the report but going by the the newspaper accounts it seems to be on the right track. The fact that the report delved into the issues of rural sports and the decentralization of the National Sports Council leads me to believe that there was some thought put into the draft.

What I was most happy to read was that the report highlighted the need to promote sports in schools. It recommended having a dedicated sports instructor in every school and also having a mandatory sports period - both good ideas for developing sports and also promoting physical fitness, health, leadership and other residual benefits that come with being involved in sports.

One area of sports development I did not see mentioned, which I hope is in the Sports Policy paper is the importance of creating talent identification mechanisms in Nepali sports. There needs to be a well developed system where top sports talents can be identified and fast-tracked into an elite development program, so they are given the necessary tools to shine on the international stage.

28 April 2009

Golf tour shows the way in Media Relations

In Nepali sports there are two ways to get the media on your side - threaten them with "gundas" (gangsters) or seduce them with dinner buffets. Therefore it was refreshing to learn that Surya Nepal Masters golf tournament took the more professional approach by holding a media golf outing where media members had an opportunity to try their hands on the sport and receive information on the then upcoming tournament. Now, I am sure there was a nice buffet thrown in as well, but certainly it was not the corrupting variety you'll see other sports associations host.

24 April 2009

Pepsi's perfect promotion

Just got back to Nepal after a few weeks outside of the country and I must say Pepsi has really done an outstanding job promoting its brand through the Pepsi 7-A-Side tournament. Pepsi collateral for the tournament can be found across Kathmandu, the major newspapers have the Pepsi branded tournament logo besides their tournament related articles and even websites have been provided the tournament logo. I wonder what affect this all is having on attendances at matches. Anyone have attendance numbers?

For Pepsi however, attendance is secondary - they come out winners as long as the public associates their brand with football and fun and drinks their products.

21 April 2009

Stadium propasal for Prachanda

The Prime Minister during the opening ceremony of the 5th Nation Games promised five new stadiums and one new international standard stadium in the coming years to help develop Nepali sports. I think most of us will be shocked if just one stadium is built. Nevertheless, below is my stadium proposal to Prachanda. I feel it is the most practical solution if the government is truly committed to developing sports.

1) Instead of spending Carores on a new international stadium, upgrade Dasarath Rangasala by (a) installing an artificial pitch that can be used year round, (b) increase capacity by adding a second level on the east side of the stadium and by filling in the west-side corners, (c) add more amenities such as extra toilets/urinals (like over 100!), broadcast booth, hospitality areas, etc.

2) Don't waste money on another five stadiums! Instead, build five indoor halls/gymnasiums - one each in the five development regions.

If a stadium is not of international standards - it can pretty much only support two sports: athletics and football. Even then, for athletics, a proper running track is required for top class training. Therefore, it would be much better for the government to spend money on building gyms and covered halls that will be able to accommodate over a dozen sports (Just off the top of my head I can name - Boxing, Taekwondo, Karate, Wushu, Weightlifting, Wrestling, Table Tennis, Badminton, Volleyball, Futsal, Basketball, Handball, Kabbaddi). The indoor facilities would cost perhaps a fraction of a proper stadium. Seeing that Nepal's medals at the Asian Games and SAF Games have primarily come from power sports such as Taekwondo and Karate, it makes much more sense to create infrastructure that promotes those sports.

18 April 2009

Police to play two matches in one day

The NPC friendly match against Bangladesh senior national team is really becoming farcical. According to reports, the Police side will be playing two matches on the same day - first in the 7-a-side tournament and then against Bangladesh later in the day. It is hard to be optimistic about football in the country when such silliness continues to prevail.

ANFA loses stadium standoff

According to GoalNepal.com the NPC - Bangladesh match has been relegated to the Halchowk Stadium as Dasarath Stadium is currently booked. This is a bit of an embarrassment for Nepali football as Bangladesh spent a lot of money to send their senior men's team for a friendly match in Nepal only to have to play at the Armed Police Force training ground. It especially stings because the event that is occupying Dasarath Stadium is run by some 7-a-side football federation, a bastardization of association football which is not recognized by FIFA, thus no clubs affiliated with a FIFA Member (i.e. ANFA) should really be participating in the 7-a-side tournament.

In fairness to ANFA, the political situation in Nepal is such where you just have to grin and bear these things sometimes. However, there really is little excuse for ANFA to invite a team to come to Nepal without first making sure that the only proper stadium we have in the country is fully available for use.

17 April 2009

Nepal's Tiger Woods?

TenSports the other day had a half-an-hour feature on Nepali golf. The narrator of the show called golfer Shiva Ram Shrestha, "The Tiger Woods of Nepali golf". That is some serious praise, so I immediately did a Google search on him and it just so happens that one of our regular visitors, Sushil Thapa, had written a feature on him.

16 April 2009

Ganesh Thapa's Gold Medal

Lots of people have been asking me for my opinion on ANFA President Ganesh Thapa receiving the AFC Service Award - Gold Medal. My answer is simple - he deserves it, as he meets the criteria for the award (30 years of service to Asian Football) and has been a very active member of the AFC and South Asian Football Federation (SAFF).

I feel a lot of Thapa's strong points - his organization skills, iconic stature, and international relation skills are often under appreciated by people. Please find me someone else in the Nepali sports sector who has similar talents - I have yet to come across anyone.

Now that is not to say everything that Thapa has done is perfect and there is not room for improvement. Certainly, Thapa needs to improve on his delegation of responsibilities to others, as often ANFA is a one man show - occasionally bereft of fresh ideas. He also has to work on toning-down his fiery temperament which creates quick enemies and has brought about gridlock in Nepali football on more than one occasion.

Thapa on receiving the award said, "I vow to work with more dedication for the development of Nepali football". Let us demand that indeed the award will fuel a new period of great success for Nepali football.

15 April 2009

From the media:

Great use of photo journalism by Republica to convey the story of the Army pulling out of the National Games.

14 April 2009

5th National Games wrap

Following the 5th National Games the last few days was very enjoyable. It was a great opportunity to survey the Nepali sports landscape and learn the stories of the many unheralded athletes. The National Games provided a tremendous platform for both organizers and performers to sharpen their skills and show their game. For the most part they delivered - from the well received opening and closing ceremonies to the multiple national records that were broken.

Certainly, holding the National Games regularly will be a great boon for Nepali sports. The next Games are scheduled for 2011, though it would be wonderful to see the event be an annual affair.

13 April 2009

Why was attendance at Prime Minister's Cup higher than at AFC Challenge Cup?

While respectable crowds showed up for the AFC Challenge Cup - a very meaningful continental level tournament that featured full national teams and counts in the FIFA Rankings, it was less than the crowds at the PM Cup, a mickey-mouse tournament filled with "B" National Teams and lesser known clubs.

So why was attendance at Prime Minister's Cup higher than at AFC Challenge Cup?

A) Maoists are better organizers than AFC

B) PM Cup was knockout tournament with finals, while Challenge Cup was group league only

C) Fans had no money left after PM Cup

D) Nepali public do not understand the difference between the tournaments

E) All of the above

F) None of the above

12 April 2009

Cricket on Everest

So they will be playing Twenty20 cricket at the top of the world after all. But it's not IPL, just a few goofballs wanting to play cricket on Mt. Everest. Hope they carry enough oxygen with them.

Here are some promotional pictures from WireImages.

Update (13 April): Sagarmatha National Park does not want cricket to be played on Everest.

Update (14 April): The record breaking match now looks to be back on.

11 April 2009

Articles on MCC tour of Nepal

An alert from Rangasala-NSB regular visitor CrazyT21:
"Hey I found these articles when I was just browsing the internet. It's about when the MCC toured Nepal and played those 5 games. Ian Fletcher, who was a journalist wrote about the games and his experiences. Pretty interesting stuff. The only sad thing is I don't think they sent their best team to play Nepal."

Here is a link to the articles (Scroll down a little).

Girl from remote village wins bronze medal in some athletic event (not sure which one)

There is another interesting feature on the National Games by Republica today. The first part of the story is about a young girl from a far-flung village who came out of nowhere to win a bronze medal in athletics wearing shoes that were too big for her.

I don't mean to editorialize too much, but the feature had all the makings of a great human interest story, but unfortunately it then goes on to talk about age limits in sports, which should have been a separate story. It also omits lots of facts like how she was selected, which event she participated in, what region/department she represented, etc.

Women's cricket

This picture really caught my eye while browsing through Nepalsportsphoto.com. It's great to see sports being played by all at a competitive level.

10 April 2009

Anyone find the official website for the 5th National Games?

Has anyone found an official website for the 5th National Games? So far, I have not been able to locate one - not even an unofficial one.

Even the National Sports Council website which I was very positive about a few months back is currently down. What bad timing.

Edit (10 April , 10 AM): The National Sports Council website is now working.

Entire volleyball team crammed into two bedrooms

Intriguing story in Republica about the plight of the Mid-Western womens volleyball team. I am sure their story is not unique. I just wonder, is it a case of circumstances or is some middleman profiting by providing limited facilities to these athletes?

I know football clubs similarly pack their players into 1 or 2 rooms for months at a time during the football league - embarrassingly that includes the club I am affiliated with (and they wonder why the players are constantly getting sick), but one would think that during the National Games standard accommodations and transport are offered equally to all the athletes.

09 April 2009

National Football Team in matching outfits

During the recently concluded AFC Challenge Cup, for the first time the National Football Team trained in matching kits and the game jerseys featured the ANFA emblem on them - which is generally the international standard.

In the past Nepal kits either were blank (perhaps, no budget for printing logos?) or featured the Nepal flag on them. It's nice to see ANFA taking baby steps in the right direction with regards to team apparel. Let's hope the progressive trend continues.

08 April 2009

Formidable National Games opening ceremony

I was not able to witness it as I am currently out of the country, but by all accounts the 5th National Games opening ceremony was impressive. Here is an excerpt of an email I received from a friend about the extravaganza:

"I watched briefly on NTV the inaugural ceremony of Nepal's 5th national sports competition. The cultural shows and fireworks were quite impressive. Jeevan Ram Shrestha tried to emulate the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic. While we still have a long way to go, it was a good effort.

"The songs and dances were very patriotic, and quite touching under the overall theme of 'unity in diversity' 'bibidhatama yekata' - a very appropriate theme at a time when ethnic chauvinists are arousing narrow-minded passions in the name of federalism."

Nepal Army versus People's Army

I really have not reached an opinion on the whole PLA participation in the National Games. Here is an article about the whole controversy. Perhaps it begs the question what is the criteria for participation? Why are the departmental teams (Army, Police and APF) participating in the National Games and not other clubs? Why are athletes playing for their region, instead of their Ethnic clan, School, Local Gym/Club, District...?

Nonetheless all this should have been sorted out weeks ago. Did the PLA request to participate come too late or did NSC and the Ministry of Youth and Sports drag their feet on the issue? I personally do not have the facts.

Edit: Here is The Himalayan Times thoughts on the issue.

07 April 2009

Of birdies and bogies

Notice all the golf articles recently in the media. Great job by golf sponsors (notably Surya Nepal) and organizers. As an affluent sport, one would presume the Nepal golf fraternity are quite adept at marketing their sport.

I am a decent follower of golf, but I am not sure what I feel about golf as a sport. I've always considered it more of a skill than a sport. How excited would I feel about a Nepali winning an Asian Games medal in golf or even better winning a prestigious golf tournament? Would it highlight Nepal's sporting prowess? It is hard to answer those questions at this moment, but a famous Nepali golfer would certainly help put Nepal on the map for the right reasons - so that's a good thing.

Edit (April 9) - Just watched a 30 minute feature on Nepali golf on TenSports. It was a great promotion for golf in Nepal and the country as a whole.

05 April 2009

Example of shoddy journalism

The following are two brief stories about the arrest of Nepal Basketball Association President Lama Tendi Sherpa a few days back. Notice how poor the Kathmandu Post version is compared to the Himalayan Times one. Both articles fail to elaborate who the "government authorities" were - Police, Army, Tax Office, CIAA?

Himalayan Times:
NeBA put hold events
KATHMANDU: Nepal Basketball Association (NeBA) on Monday put hold all the remaining regional selection tournaments for the upcoming fifth National Games. The NeBA protest came following the arrest of its president Lama Tendi Sherpa on March 2 from Tri-Chandra Campus premises. “We condemn the arrest of our president and demand his immediate release,” said NeBA General Secretary Mahendra Man Shakya at a press meet. Shakya said that Sherpa was arrested without issuing a warrant and that all basketball activities will be put on hold until the president is released.

Kathmandu Post:
NeBA in protest
KATHMANDU: The Nepal Basketball Association (NeBA) on Monday decided to halt all basketball activities around the country, including the regional basketball tournaments, in protest against the unlawful arrest of NeBA President Lama Tendi Sherpa, said NeBA at a press conference on Monday. NeBA has alleged government authorities of taking Sherpa into custody without an arrest warrant.

03 April 2009

Mountaineering in the sports pages

When Everest pioneer Pemba Dorje Sherpa met the Minister for Youth and Sports, Gopal Shakya, to handover the jacket he wore when he climbed the worlds highest peak in a record breaking time, the story was published in the sports pages of practically every newspaper in Nepal.

Perhaps it was because (1) he was meeting with the Minister for Youth and Sports and (2) he was donating his jacket to the Nepal Olympic Museum, as mountaineering stories rarely, if ever, make it to the back pages of Nepali rags.

I have long held the belief that Nepal's sports media needs to do much more to promote mountaineering as a sport. If they can monitor Chess events on a daily basis, surely they can cover a discipline that has brought much glory to the country. Articles on mountaineering, mountain weather reports and profiles of the climbers should feature periodically in the sports pages - especially during the peak climbing seasons.

On a related note Minister Shakya promised to include mountaineering as a sports discipline in the government's new sports policy.

02 April 2009

IPL at the Top of the World

No electricity, lack of political stability, poor infrastructure - hardly the prerequisites to host the sporting spectacle that is the Indian Premier League (IPL). But if those things were to be rectified (and I know it probably won't be for a long time to come), wouldn't Nepal be the perfect location for cricket matches?

Why bother with places like South Africa when Nepal is a short hop from India, has plenty of passionate cricket fans, year round great weather, stunning scenery to make for memorable television broadcasts, a very low cost of living, some wonderful hotels and casinos, and lots of tourist sites that Indians would enjoy (Pashupati, Boudha, etc.).

Already Nepal has one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world (See above picture). We would probably need a few more stadiums in places like Pokhara and Chitwan to host the entire IPL tournament, but if let's say in the future only one IPL team had to relocate because of security concerns or renovations to their stadium - then Nepal could be the perfect alternative.