31 May 2009

Young talents in Basketball to be groomed

Nepal Basketball Association (NeBA) is launching an advanced training scheme for talented basketballers. Basically they are going with a modified academy approach. Thirty boys and 15 girls will receive scholarships to study and train regularly at one of three prominent colleges in Kathmandu.

Instead of bemoaning the lack of government and private sector support, it is great to see a sports association taking some initiative and trying to implement development strategies. Whether NeBA's plans will be short lived or a grand success is uncertain, but at least they're rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty.

No matter what the football apologists (which includes me) might say, basketball is now perhaps the most popular sport at education institutions in Nepal, from schools to colleges. The limited space required to build a basketball court and the popularity of the NBA are contributing factors. While I do not see much scope internationally for Nepali basketball, our genes our our weakness - I am only 5'10 and I feel like a giant on the streets of Kathmandu, but domestically the game has a big upside.

If well organized and marketed, I am quite optimistic that a basketball league, with cheerleaders, loud music, prizes, etc. could be all the rage amongst the younger and more educated segments of society who would be quite exposed to the sport during their school days. The Philippines is an example of a country where basketball is wildly popular despite being irrelevant on the international scene. Perhaps Nepali basketball will find a similar fate and for sure the new basketball initiative is a great start to developing the sport in the country.

29 May 2009

Cricket coach explains why Nepal cannot get over the hump

There was a great interview with RoyLuke Dias in the Rising Nepal a few weeks back. Dias hit boundaries on almost all the questions. I sensed no bitterness in the interview - he just stated the facts on Nepal's cricketing struggles. It really made me realize how fortunate we are to have him as our national team head coach.

In the interview he talks about Nepali cricket's weaknesses on and off the field, the reason Afghanistan was able to end Nepal's dominance in the youth ranks and why our players cannot post a decent tally on the scoreboard.

27 May 2009

National Games: Money well spent?

The National Sports Council released the expense details of the 5th National Games a few days back. The budget for the games was around USD $3 million (NRS 250 million) and $2 million of that was spent leaving a surplus of $1 million.

$3 million seems like an awful lot of money for a two week event. Maybe I am a bit naive, but I would think that with those sums, if it were well utilized, Nepal could probably produce an Olympic champion. The National Games is important in promoting sports and giving athletes an opportunity to compete, and politically it would be quite difficult to siphon off the funds to just one sport or one athlete, but wouldn't a Nepali Olympic medalist do more to develop sports in the country than hosting the National Games a hundred times over?

24 May 2009

Sports means business

The line "Sports is a business" is sort of the phrase du jour in the sporting circles. The Himalayan Times has taken it quite literally by placing a sports story in the business section of their website. The NPC - Regar TadAZ preview which appeared in the business section was missing in the sports section. The Kathmandu Post online edition made a similar gaff as some business stories appeared below the headline, "Regar Tadaz through".

21 May 2009

Nepali swimming: headlines or flatlines?

Karishma Karki was undoubtedly the star of the 5th National Games after bagging 12 gold medals in the swimming pool. The amazing feat certainly might get the casual sports fan believing that the young Olympian has a real shot at an Olympic medal in the years to come. Unfortunately, a little research shows that it is unlikely that Karishma stands a chance at even securing a medal at the South Asian Games let alone the Olympic Games.

All the credit in the world goes to Karishma. Certainly she must have put a massive amount of effort to accomplish what she did. You just don't jump into a pool one day and win 12 gold medals. However, it would be dancing around the truth to not admit that her records might actually speak volumes about the poor state of Nepali swimming than her own accomplishments. Karishma herself admitted in a great feature on her in the Rising Nepal that she was disappointed she could not break any of the existing national records in swimming during the 5th National Games.

Here is how far Karishma is from winning an international medal: during the 2008 Beijing Olympics she completed the 50m freestyle in 32.35 seconds. Just to make the semi-finals in that event she would have had to swim under 26 seconds. That is a massive difference of over 6 seconds! Each of the three South Asians (one each from Pakistan, Maldives, Bangladesh) participating in the same event bettered her time. Similarly, she won the National Games gold medal in the 100 meters backstroke in 1.28 seconds. That is nearly 20 seconds off what it would have taken to garner a bronze medal at the 2006 SAF Games in Sri Lanka.

All this is not meant to be an attack on Karishma or Nepali swimming. It is just a reminder of how far Nepali sports has to go if it wishes to make even a ripple internationally.

19 May 2009

NPC's results a reality check

NPC's poor showing in the AFC Presidents Cup was the worst performance ever by any Nepali club in that tournament. The cops managed to garner only 2 points including a humiliating loss to featherweights Taiwan Power Company. The previous low was when MMC accumulated 3 points in the second edition of the tournament.

It's not the end of the world for Nepali football, as even the best clubs in the world from time to time have abysmal results, but before our football officials start gloating about the results of meaningless tournaments such as the Prime Minister's Cup and how Nepal has the "best youth football" in South Asia (which I totally disagree with), they need to understand that football in this country is nowhere near where it needs to be.

17 May 2009

Al Jazeera special report on sport in Nepal

Al Jazeera did a three part series on sport in Nepal. They highlighted football, cricket and Taekwondo. There was also a bonus piece about Nepal's victory in the Under 17 Asia Cup (Cricket).

13 May 2009

How to create a meaningful sports logo

I do not really like the new Philadelphia Union (MLS - USA first division football league) logo, but really appreciate the thought that went into creating it. (click on image above to see larger 'readable' version). Wish Nepali sports organizations (and the Government - have you seen the ugly new government seal? When does a Nepali man and woman ever shake hands?) would put more thought into their logos.

10 May 2009

Nepal has a Beach Volleyball team! Will our women be subjected to bikinis?

Here is an article on the struggles of volleyball in Nepal. A few national team volleyballers are headed to Bangladesh for a beach volleyball tournament. Yes, that's right! No beaches in the country, but we do have some beach volleyballers - kind of like the Jamaican bobsled team I suppose.

As you can see from the picture, beach volleyball is one of the few sports that has "maximum" dress code. Basically, you have to play in your underwear unless you are Muslim (That's not a joke). I'm curious to know if the Nepali girls who will be participating in the tournament will be given some extra clothing allowance due to cultural sensitivities. If not, Perhaps Hisila Yami and the All Women's Association (Republican) will take-up the cause to make sure our women beach volleyballers are fully clothed. After some very taxing research, I have dug-up a picture of how a potential Nepali lady in beach volleyball garb would look. Oh the humanity!
I remember a while ago some beach volleyball tournament was held in Nepal, but looking at the photos it didn't quite heat-up the banks of the Trisuli. FYI - The above is a picture of Miss Nepal 2004 at the Miss World pageant.

08 May 2009

Nepal Cricket League nicknames

Though I found them revolting at first, the IPL team nicknames have really grown on me. I now have concluded that the names are a great mix of classic (Rajasthan Royals) and contemporary (Chennai Super Kings), unique (Deccan Chargers) and nostalgic (King's XI Punjab), corporate (Royal Challengers Bangalore) and nationalistic (Mumbai Indians), silly (Delhi DareDevils) and super duper silly (Kolkata Knight Riders).

So let's pretend CAN started a Twenty20 Nepal Cricket League, what would the team nicknames be? Below are my choices - presuming that the teams would be based where the current six teams that participate in the National League are located.

Prime Minister's XI Biratnagar (A tribute to the long history of PMs and politicians that have come from Biratnagar)

Birgunj Bandits (Just read the newspapers on a daily basis and you'll understand)

Kathmandu Kings (Historical reference to the 3 Malla kingdoms of Kathmandu, not the Shah dynasty)

Border Boys of Bhairawa (It's a border city that has no unique characteristics)

Nepalgunj Nepalis (Why not?)

Baitadi Buffaloes (Struggled with this one, but I'm sure there are some Buffaloes roaming that town)

Expansion city candidates:

Pokhara Lakers (Famous for its lakes)

Dharan Warriors/Gurkhas (Hotbed of Gurkha recruitment)

What nicknames would you give?

07 May 2009

Cricket stadium in the offing?

Potentially a new cricket stadium in Kathmandu according to this article. I would prefer any new stadium to be built in the Terai region where the majority of players come from, but such meritocratic thinking does not exist in Nepal.

05 May 2009

Nepal Ski Team mystery in the French Alps

Strange story making the rounds linking a member of the Nepal ski team, Jehovah Witnesses, French Alps and late King Birendra - sounds like an abysmal attempt at a suspense novel.

The article briefly mentioned that Nepal's Ski team had collapsed because of a funding dispute with the Nepal Olympic Committee. Seems a bit strange as Jeevan Ram Shrestha, president of the Nepal Ski Association, is also head honcho of the National Sports Council and General Secretary of the NOC. I am more interested in the latter saga than the former mystery (though obviously pray for the safety of the missing skier)

Update (12 May): BBC Reports that the skier Uttam Rayamajhi has been found through the help of Facebook. Supposedly, he and his teammate are training for Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

04 May 2009

Where have the sports editors gone?

Do newspaper sports editors exist in Nepal? I read three different articles about the AFC Presidents Cup in three different English newspapers and each one of them spelled the name of participating Tajikistan team, Regar-TadAZ, incorrectly.

I understand that the ANFA press-release was probably written in Nepali and thus the journalists had to translate it into English, but isn't it their duty to check the facts, spellings, etc.? Have they not heard of Google, Wikipedia, FIFA/AFC Official websites?

02 May 2009

Madhyapur leading the way in youth development

I came away very impressed after attending the second year launch of the Madhyapur Youth Association, a club founded by former national team captain Upendra Man Singh, based in Bhaktapur district. Hats-off to Upendra and his team, they are really doing a terrific job at their club which boasts one of Nepal's few football academies. Currently there are 30 boys (Fifteen Under 14 and fifteen Under 12) who are receiving regular training.

What impressed me most about MYA is the strong coordination they have created with sponsors, schools, the community, former players from the area and parents. They are a shining example of a club planting their roots in their locality.

They have secured multiple 'small' sponsors and donors to provide equipment and capital for the club. One bicycle store even donated five bicycles as an award for the best academy players. All the boys in the academy receive free schooling, with a host of schools providing scholorships to MYA players. These are but a few examples of what MYA is doing.

As some of you know, I myself run a football training program in Morang and I must admit that I learned a lot from my visit to MYA and will definitely be trying to emulate some the things they are doing.