27 April 2011

Nepalgunj sports complex

Nepalgunj Stadium is actually quite nice in the Nepali context. It has a permanent wall around the perimeter thus the pitch is relative undisturbed. The running track built for the National Games has deteriorated but still provides a circuit for jogging. There is one small elevated VIP area on one side and a small 1,000 person stand on the opposite side. Overflow crowds sit on the grass areas around the field. If a team from Banke makes it to the ANFA National League the stadium should be adequate enough to host matches.

The covered hall is actually quite big - again, in the Nepali context. There are three badminton courts marked on it. As the wooden floor is worn-out and not level it is doubtful that any team sports like basketball or handball can be played inside it. There is one 500 person stand on one side of the hall.

Outside the stadium there is what looks like a 5-a-side football field. At the time this photo was taken there were some martial artists training on it. The sports complex also has a gym and shooting range, but they were locked when I visited.

07 April 2011

I Love Nepali Football

The I Love Nepali Football t-shirt promotion reminds me a lot of the Be The Reds campaign in Korea during the 2002 FIFA World Cup (how could anyone forget it? Wink, Wink!).

The initiative, spearheaded by GoalNepal, is creating decent buzz. On Facebook quite a few die-hard football fans have changed their profile photo to the I Love Nepali Football logo. A few hundred fans are expected to be wearing the t-shirts at the AFC Challenge Cup being held in Kathmandu this week. As I alluded to a few weeks back, Nepal never has really had much of a supporters culture, so it is really encouraging to see someone try an initiative like this.

01 April 2011

An amazing ride with Nepali sports

Rangasala Blog achieved its 2nd anniversary last month. To celebrate I’ve written a special post about how Nepali sports have impacted my life. Enjoy!

I’ve been involved in Nepali sports for around 14 years and it’s been absolutely amazing!

To make a very long story short – living in the USA I was starved for Nepali football news and presumed there were many people like me out there, so in 1997, as a freshman in college, I created a website dedicated to Nepali soccer called Nepal Football Homepage.

Through Nepal Football Homepage I developed links with many people in the international and domestic sports sector. One thing led to another and for the next 14 years I’ve been actively developing, covering, and following sports in Nepal and it’s been a phenomenal experience in so many ways.

Taking in a view of the tea fields of Ilam
Discovering Nepal
Having been raised in the USA for the majority of my life Nepal basically meant Kathmandu and the only Nepalis I knew were my relatives. That has all changed now.

Through my involvement in Nepali sports I’ve gotten to know so many people I would never have – athletes, businessmen, journalists, sports officials and most importantly – sports fans!

I’ve had the good fortune to travel to many corners of this gorgeous country and experience its rich cultures and customs. I probably now know Nepal a lot better than many Nepalis do!

Making a difference
When your relatives are stuffing you with food every chance they get and you encounter so many smiling faces on the roads of Kathmandu often the depth of poverty in Nepal is not glaringly apparent. Through my experiences in Nepali sports I’ve come to realize that acquiring just a single ball, a single boot, a coaching manual or a copy of a rulebook is actually quite a big deal to many.

Donating equipment to a girls team in Urlabari, Morang
I remember once visiting Ramailo Sports Club, a club based in a far flung village in Morang district. They were the DISTRICT FOOTBALL CHAMPIONS, but the club had no more than two or three footballs, which were all quite old and worn-out. Half their players did not have football boots, their coach had never seen a football instructional book or video in his life and their uniforms were basically the bibs that the District Football Association would loan them on match days.

With the help of friends and acquaintances and for an amount that is probably less than what I spend on junk food every year, I’ve been privileged enough to able to donate sports equipment and materials, organize workshops and offer guidance to various sports enthusiasts and entities in Nepal. The projects I’ve assisted on have given sporting opportunities to many youths and helped develop players, coaches, officials, clubs and sports associations, including several that have gone on to make a mark on the national and international stage.

Understanding Nepal
Through sports I’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of Nepal. I’ve had many wonderful encounters and met some amazing people. I’ve also been cheated, robbed, tricked, misled, used, abused, taken advantage of. I’ve been embroiled, front and center, in messy sports politics and have had to navigate many roadblocks and unnecessary hassles even for the most trivial things.

It has been fulfilling and frustrating, thrilling and at points blood boiling. The experiences have helped me understand Nepal better – how things work in the country and why things don’t work in the country. Three years and no national constitution in sight – it makes sense to me now.

Friends for life
After working 14 years in a field, undoubtedly you make quite a few friends. I’ve now got Nepali sports buddies from Mechi to Mahakali – well at least up to Seti Zone (Dhangadhi), and internationally from Milan to Malaysia. They include some of my best friends today and my business partners, all of whom I met as a result of my involvement in Nepali sports.
Racing rickshaws in the Terai
It’s pretty surreal to know that in over 30 different districts in Nepal I’d probably have at least one sports related friend that I would be able to sit down and have a cup of tea with. One time when I travelled from Biratnagar to Bagdogra Airport in Darjeeling I stopped at 7 different points (Duhabi, Itahari, Patri, Urlabari, Birtamod, Dhulabari, Kakarbhitta) to meet the many friends I had all along that route. The 140 kilometer journey took over 8 hours and I nearly missed my flight home!

Job experience
Nepali sports opened a lot of doors for me. As Nepal Football Homepage was the first Nepali football website, many international media were quick to contact me when needing information on Nepali soccer. I started developing a significant network of sports industry professionals from around the globe.

Meeting with NPC officials at AFC House
I wrote articles for FIFA, AFC, FourFourTwo magazine and assisted several sports TV programs. Machhindra Club brought me on as an advisor to their Executive Board and I helped them find sponsors and develop their marketing.

I leveraged all this experience and was admitted into the FIFA Master program and then was hired by the Asian Football Confederation as a Development Officer. Now I’m in Hyderabad running my own company that develops sports related web applications.

Fun! Fun! Fun!
Being involved in Nepali sports has been fun. I’ve watched Nepali teams and athletes play in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. I’ve gone on excursions all across Nepal. I’ve been invited into many homes and been able to taste all sorts of cuisine (Jhapali wild boar being my favorite! Thank you Pankaj dai!).

I’ve also had many interesting conversations, heart warming interactions, and yes, even a couple of very wild nights.

Get involved!
Nepali sports have been awesome to me and I would encourage anyone that is passionate about sport to get involved. Certainly there are many challenges and undoubtedly you’ll encounter many bumps on the road – that’s just a part of life in Nepal these days. Take it all in stride and be persistent and through Nepali sports you are sure to have many memorable experiences, meet some wonderful people, make a positive difference and have loads of fun along the way.