29 November 2009

Government's role in sports

Whenever Nepali sports is in the gutters, many fans immediately point their fingers at the Government and call on it to do more to assist our national teams and athletes. I disagree. Nepal's government needs to focus on health and education - not any one sports team or elite athlete. That job is the responsibility of the sports associations, but as we know, most of the national sports association are either fast asleep or by a buffet table at a Five Star hotel near you. Therefore, I really get furious when sports associations make demands on the government. The irony is that the same people who ask for government support are the one's who constantly lecture that government should not interfere in sports.

It is great to see the Prime Minister take an interest in the sports sector and I am encouraged that he stated that a firm sports policy needs to be in place. My own policy recommendation would be to not give our sports association a single Rupee. Any money invested in sports by the government should only be allocated to grassroots participation initiatives or projects that help the social and economic well-being of the country, like a sports program that encourages health and exercise or one that promotes tourism to the country. Let the sports associations do their job, the government should not do it for them.

28 November 2009

Goalnepal.com's excellent coverage

Full disclosure: I write a monthly article for Goalnepal.com. No matter, I think most of us will agree that Goalnepal.com is a gift to Nepali football fans. Bikram Thapa, the CEO and editor, does a fantastic job putting out story after story on Nepali football from every corner of the country. There are very few English language Asian football sites that provide such good coverage.

Last week Goalnepal.com broke a few interesting stories that were both funny and infuriating at the same time. They included a report on the diet of the Nepali players which consisted of jerri and juice and the news that two first division clubs were stranded in Jhapa because they did not have enough players to participate in a tournament in Sikkim.

26 November 2009

Domestic roundup

All the national newspapers are doing a very good job of covering the South Asian Games qualifying. The standard of Nepali sports journalism is really on the rise. Here is a good example from my favorite English sports section - Republica.

The National Football Team went to Gokarna Resort to do a leadership and team building course. It's a great idea by ANFA advisers who put the program together. Mental training is almost as important as physical training according to this article.

Surya Nepal found Nepal's three most promising golfers.

There was a nice article in the Republica by Neeraj Chandra Roy on the whereabouts of the 10th South Asian Games gold medalists.

24 November 2009

Around the sports world

Biggest ever match-fixing racket busted by European authorities. Many may remember that ANFA did not even penalize a single person when Machhindra and RCT played a 9-8 football match which was undoubtedly fixed.

A nice article on how athletes can promote themselves using the Internet and social media. Anil Gurung and Deepak Bista are doing it through their websites and a few others like Rakesh Shrestha by way of Facebook.

Australian report says Australia is too focused on winning medals and thus participation rates in sports are dropping in the country. I absolutely agree that getting people to participate in sports comes first and then only should we focus on winning medals.

The formula for being a top athlete - 40-30-30. 40% training, 30% mental, 30% risk taking. Are Nepali athletes lacking the mental bit?

22 November 2009

Athletes reach new heights

This week four national records were broken, one in athletics and three in weightlifting. The feats are very positive news for Nepali sports as it indicates that some our athletes are performing to their abilities. As sports fans that is all we ask for from our national sportsmen.

It is wrong to judge athletes simply on whether they win medals. Certainly, the odds are stacked against them with the poor facilities and abysmal administration they have to work with in Nepal. That does not however mean that we should give them a free pass either. It is more than appropriate for us to expect athletes to put up a formidable showing in their respective sports.

When an athlete participates in an international sporting event and posts a time that is over 20% slower than their national best or gets knocked out in the first round of a tournament without throwing a single punch - they deserve to be criticized. But when a sportsman goes down swinging or breaks a personal best time, even if they finish in last place, then we should all be proud of their performance.

19 November 2009

Basketball the game of the youth

There are a ton of school basketball tournaments going on these days, both for boys and girls. The tournaments are receiving quite a bit of fanfare and media coverage and without a doubt basketball now is the school sport of Nepal.

Unlike football, which requires a massive field and a squad of 16 to 18 players, and the martial arts, whose purpose is to wound one's opponent, basketball is an ideal sport for Nepali schools.

I would love to see schools and the Nepal Basketball Association (NeBA) work together to really proliferate the game in the country. The goal should be for virtually every school to have a basketball court and a team. They would play in local school leagues and there would be a national championship for the top schools.

The dream scenario for sports lovers would be if in the future kids picked a school based on the reputation of the basketball program and the sport became the central event that brings together a school's alumni base. Countries like the USA and Japan have a great school sports culture and it would be wonderful if we could one day have that in Nepal through basketball.

17 November 2009

Anil Gurung's official website

Anil Gurung has launched an official website. Great timing by the Shillong Lajong striker, as interest in him is at a peak these days. The website has a creative layout - using a key chain as a navigation menu. Other than that it is fairly basic at the moment, but has most of the information that fans and media would be looking for.

Around the sports world

Preity Zinta is taking a sports management class at Harvard. I wonder if Rekha Thapa is thinking of doing the same?

American comedian Stephen Colbert's television show, the Colbert Report is sponsoring the USA Speed Skating Team. That would be the equivalent of Deepak Raj Giri's super-hit show Tito Satya sponsoring one of Nepal's national teams.

Sport England is spending GBP 1o million to encourage women to play sport. It would be great to see similar initiatives in Nepal. Let's stop wasting money on tourist athletes.

Here is a link to few Sports Marketing & New Media presentations (FC Barcelona, NFL, IMG, etc.)

15 November 2009

Treat sports like a business

A big reason Nepali sports is on life-support is because our sports officials treat sports like it is a village "mela". All one needs to do is give notice to the local band a few days in advance, make sure there is enough food and liquor for everyone, and invite the most prominent politician in the area to grace the function. Once the "mela" is over everyone limps back home and all that is left at the village ground are heaps of garbage and a few passed-out drunks.

Sports have evolved substantially in recent times and "mela" management techniques do not work anymore. Our sports officials need to start treating sports like a business: there needs to be a strategic plan, proper accounting and audits, human resource development, a board of directors with real executive powers, customer service management, annual reports and reviews, etc., etc.

Sponsors need to be looked at as partners and not donors. The Government should be a resource and not the solution. Senior administrators must have the mindset of a CEO and not a 3rd-world dictator. People should be hired and promoted based on merit and not nepotism.

13 November 2009

Prize money sends wrong message

Virtually every youth tournament these days is offering prize money to student athletes and schools. Perhaps this is the only way tournaments can attract participants, but it certainly sends the wrong message to kids.

When prize money is involved the ideals of sportsmanship, skill development, teamwork and having fun, which should be highly emphasized at youth levels, take a back seat to winning at all costs.

As a result the systematic development of youth players is compromised, there is a peak in match and age fixing, and students learn poor life lessons.

School and youth level sporting events should stop the practice of awarding prize money. A simple handshake after the match and some delicious Long Pie for the bus ride back home is more than adequate.

11 November 2009

18th Asian Athletics Championships

Here is a link to the 18th Asian Athletics Championships. Nepali athletes are not doing too well at the event.

Does cheating pay?

I always questioned why a country would used overage players in youth tournaments. The use of over-age players is immoral and does little to develop football in the country. Well, that's what I thought.

After the dismal results of the current Nepal youth teams in AFC competitions, I now question my firmly held beliefs.

The horrid results have been condemned by fans, media, and the football fraternity alike. It has probably produced the greatest amount of collective venom ANFA has received recently.

But where was the outrage when Nepal blatantly used overage players (and no matter how much ANFA might try to deny it, the fact is they knowingly did) to advance to the AFC Under 16 finals in the past? On the contrary everyone celebrated the accomplishment like a Diwali night and was more than happy to look the other way on the over-age issue.

Let's face it, ANFA does not currently have the will to develop a formidable youth development plan. Knowing they cannot produce great teams through a well constructed youth system the choices left are either to use over-age players and do well or be honest and get beaten like hand-washed laundry. Why should anyone then subject themselves to scorn by playing fair?

09 November 2009

Anil brings hope to Nepali football

Anil’s contract with SLFC is not only a great personal accomplishment but provides something far greater for Nepali football , something that has gone missing from our country’s favorite sport for a very long period of time. Hope!

Read my full article at GoalNepal.com

06 November 2009

Athletes receive little support

There have been a host of stories in the local rags about the difficulties our sportsmen are facing as they prepare for the SAF Games. Basically each article reads like one of those Thamel t-shirts:
No Diet
No Facilities
No Good Allowance
No Government Support
No Job
Time to throw away any expectations you might have had for Dhaka.

03 November 2009

Time to sterilize Rangasala

Is anyone really shocked by the missile throwing incident at the AFC Under 19 match between Nepal and Jordan? From the Aaha Gold Cup in Pokhara to the Martyrs Memorial League matches in Kathmandu to even pick-up games in the rice fields of the Terrai – spectator disobedience has become part and parcel of Nepali football.

With football officials setting terrible examples by bullying their way into stadiums without proper accreditation or shouting obscenities throughout matches, and the police boxing themselves in to corners of the stadium where they laugh and giggle with each other like nursery school kids while having little manoeuvrability to respond quickly to incidents - even the casual fan quickly realizes that Kurukshetra is literally a stone’s throw away when attending a football match.

While admittedly many of our spectators have a lot of growing-up to do, football officials and the police must share the blame for the continued security lapses at matches. For our football officials security basically means making sure the police are present at the event, and for the cops it means having enough lumber to lathi charge fans after they misbehave. This obsolete view of security needs to change.

Along with proper sports centric security planning and training, the authorities need to also try to change the hostile culture that exists at football games. Incentives to lure women and children to matches, keeping the stadium constantly clean and ancillary entertainment options for spectators (food, prizes, cheerleaders, etc.) are some ways they can start to sterilize the atmosphere. While some may feel that this will turn football stadiums into meditation centers, I would argue that Nepali football never has had a passionate supporters culture in the first place, so I fail to see what we would lose other than a bunch of trouble makers and continued fines from the AFC .

02 November 2009

ROI: Football versus Cricket

Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) announced a budget of 68 Lakhs (Appx. $90,000). I found that number shockingly low when compared to ANFA who just between their grants from FIFA and AFC get around $430,000 (3.35 Crores). That does not even account FIFA Goal Project funding or domestic sponsorship and allowances which easily add a few hundred thousand dollars more to that total.

Looking at the numbers, one would have to conclude that cricket easily offers Nepal ten times the return on investment that football does. While both CAN and ANFA should do some soul searching at their poor record at developing their sports at the grassroots levels, with less coaches, facilities, sponsorship, etc., our cricketers have been able to muster far better results than their football counterparts by reaching the finals or semi-finals of virtually every international tournament they participate in. Obviously Nepal is not playing against the likes of Australia and India in cricket, but neither are they competing with Asian powerhouses Japan and Korea in football.

01 November 2009

Details of Anil Gurung's journey to Shillong Lajong

Nice write-up by Ajay Phuyal in the Republica on how Anil Gurung found his way to Shillong Lajong Football Club.

Asian Indoor Games

The Prime Minister saw off the Nepali contingent participating in the 3rd Asian Indoor Games in Vietnam. A very strategic decision by the PM as receiving the players after the conclusion of the Games may be a bit embarrassing.

Nepali athletes will be participating in Snooker, 3 on 3 Basketball, Archery, Chess and Boxing. The official website of the event can be found here.