28 January 2012

Nepal's football development in our hands

Have you been to the official ANFA website (www.the-anfa.com) recently? No need to waste bandwidth visiting it, I can assure you - it is hopeless!

Photo: Gopal Chitrakar (Reuters)
However shoddy the ANFA website might be, no one is really complaining about it. Why? Because there are plenty of alternatives, like GoalNepal, that give us all the Nepali football news, results and multimedia we are looking for.

But imagine if there were no websites like GoalNepal. We would probably all be kicking and screaming about how ANFA is not doing its job, that ANFA has the wrong priorities, that ANFA does not care about the fans and that the Government of Nepal should donate a few laptops and servers to ANFA.

With GoalNepal and the many other up and coming Nepali football/sports websites, blogs and Facebook Pages out there – whether ANFA has a good or bad website really is inconsequential. The Nepali football information we desire is easily accessible anyway.

Nepal’s Internet sports information boom proves that not everything needs to start from the top. The Government of Nepal (GON), National Sports Council (NSC) and ANFA are currently just too politicized and have too many vested interests to deliver sound planning and strategy to take football and sports in Nepal to a level that hardcore fans dream about. It will thus be private individuals, groups and organizations that will have to play the lead role in developing Nepali football.

We are already seeing this in action sporadically across the country.

• Nepal Sports Journalist Forum (NSJF) annually hosts the Sports Award which has done much to motivate and encourage aspiring footballers and other sportsmen.

• Oshonik Club runs women’s football camps across the Western region and many of Nepal’s women footballers have ties to the Nepalgunj based club.

Social Welfare Sports Center conducts youth training in the Nayabazaar Dhara neighborhood of Kathmandu and has produced several Martyrs League ‘A’ Division level players.

• Sahara Club every year hosts the Aaha Gold Cup, which has become Nepal’s preeminent Football Cup Tournament and has helped inspire others clubs and communities to also organize similar events.

• NRNs and Nepalis working abroad have been making a contribution to football in a variety of ways including equipment/financial donations and as liaisons between promising Nepali players and foreign clubs.

• Ambitious entrepreneurs opened up the Futsal Arena in Thamel.

And right on cue, Nepal’s top soccer star Rohit Chand just the other day donated Rs. 30,000 worth of equipment to help support football in the MidWestern Region.

The current challenge is that in Nepal there are only a handful of people like Bhoj Raj Shahi (Founder and President of Oshonik Club) and Bikram Thapa (Founder and Editor of GoalNepal) out there who are working passionately day and night to do their part to uplift football in Nepal, while in other parts of the globe there are thousands if not tens of thousands similar persons.

Though billion dollar clubs like Barcelona and Manchester United grab all the headlines, we need to remember that 95% of the worldwide football ecosystem is made up of clubs, tournaments, coaches, referees, administrators, etc. that are mostly run and operated by locals and volunteers.

Unfortunately in Nepal we still have a tendency to look to higher powers, be it God, Government or Ganesh [Thapa] (i.e. ANFA), to solve all our problems and the attitude of “If they are not doing anything, why should I?” prevails. As an example, there are perhaps over a thousand registered football clubs across the country, but only several dozen could be deemed as “active”. If you talk to the leadership of most Nepali clubs they’ll blame their inactivity on the lack of support from the three “G’s” mentioned above.

Undoubtedly, it would be ideal if the grassroots football movement worked closely with and were supported by top level institutions (GON, NSC, ANFA). However it is not essential, especially in this day and age with so many resources available at our finger tips. With the Internet and other new media channels we can all be football experts, we can all develop links, we can all raise awareness and funds for projects we are passionate about.

Tons of coaching, sports management, marketing information and resources can be found online. You no longer have to attend AFC or FIFA courses to understand how football works. Being an ANFA official is not a prerequisite to communicate with the international football fraternity.

The power to develop football in Nepal is essentially in our hands. So stop fantasizing about what the Government, NSC and ANFA could do, should do, needs to do and roll-up your sleeves and simply do it yourself! Start a fan club, create a website, learn to be a coach, organize youth training, donate a football, teach your grandmother the offside rule – you’ll have made your contribution to Nepal's football revolution.