05 January 2013

Cargo agent to sports agent

Chitrakar with Eze Collins (left) and Daniel Baroni (right)

It has been a great few weeks for Nabin Chitrakar. In the span of less than a month he orchestrated the one million Rupee sponsorship deal between NMB Bank and Machhindra FC, engineered Rohit Chand’s historic move to Indonesian club side PSPS Pekanbaru and has helped over a dozen foreign players settle into Nepali club sides for the Martyrs League ‘A’ Division. 

In Nepal’s football circles Chitrakar’s mobile number is quickly becoming a must have. His slew of contacts, outgoing personality and negotiation skills is slowly garnering him the reputation of Nepal’s Jerry Maguire.

“I’m an accidental agent,” says the 40-year-old resident of Basantapur.

Chitrakar, the director at Muktinath De Cargo, a prominent export/import cargo company based in Thamel, was asked to join Machhindra FC as an adviser to the Executive Committee six years ago. Soon he found himself not just exporting and importing cargo, but also football players and coaches.

“The burden of finding foreign players for the club was put on my shoulders,” he claims. “That forced me to quickly make contacts with players and agents around the globe and also exposed me to the business side of football.”

Chitrakar has been a pioneer ever since his association with Machhindra FC. He helped land Nepal’s first ever foreign coach at a club side when MFC roped in Nigerian Tope Fuja to manage their team. He later brought the first Brazilian player to Nepal in Daniel Baroni. Through his international contacts he has also helped send talent the other way when arranging a trial for Santosh Shauhukhala at Indonesian powerhouse side Sriwijaya FC. 

A part-time career as a sports agent has not always been comfortable for Chitrakar. Baroni struggled during his single season in Nepal and several African players brought in by Chitrakar found glory not at Machhindra but for rival clubs.

“What people fail to understand is that environment plays a big factor for players. Baroni was playing in the top leagues in Malaysia and Indonesia and could not adjust to the awful pitch at Dasarath Rangashala,” defends Chitrakar.

As for the African players that went to other clubs, he argues that Machhindra was too slow to make a decision. “The players had bills to pay and family to support so I helped them find other clubs. Unfortunately, some of them turned out to be a lot better than the ones Machhindra eventually settled on.”

Another sensitive issue for Chitrakar is money. Seeking commissions and remunerations is still frowned upon in the close-knit world of Nepali football.

Chitrakar asserts that he has not asked for payment on most of the deals he has put together, though he does plan on charging fees going forward.

“People don’t understand how much work it takes to negotiate a deal. They think things get done with just a single thirty-second phone call,” explains Chitrakar. “When there is a lack of compensation it leads to a lack of professionalism and corruption and that is what Nepali football is really struggling with these days.”

The upsides however have far outweighed the downsides of being a sports agent. Rohit Chand’s signing with Indonesian Super League side PSPS Pekanbaru might be a seminal moment in Nepali soccer.

“This is the first time a Nepal National Team player has played for a top-flight club outside of South Asia,” Chitrakar says with pride. “It will really help highlight Nepali football across Asia and hopefully also inspire a new generation of Nepali players.”

Already numerous Indonesian and Asian football outlets have featured posts and articles about Rohit’s historic signing.
Chitrakar (far right) at NMB Bank MFC press conference

Chitrakar is also very enthusiastic about the sponsorship deal he helped put together between NMB Bank and Machhindra FC. He says it is a groundbreaking sponsorship because it is much more marketing driven than an exercise in Corporates Social Responsibility (CSR).

“What I love about the NMB Bank sponsorship is that they really want to use football as a platform to create brand awareness for their company. This is much more than a just donation to a local club,” Chitrakar explains. “Furthermore, they are using the sponsorship as a ‘B2E’ (Business to Employee) tool to help create unity and spirit within their corporation.”

The last few NMB Bank Machhindra FC games have been attended by dozens of zealous NMB Bank staff that have provided an entertaining excursion for employees of the company.

Other than his day job at the Cargo firm, there really is no life outside of football for Chitrakar.  Along with his sports agent work, he is also the president of the Arsenal Nepal Supporters Club, freshly completed the FIFA Futuro course, and recently took his family on vacation to Pokhara – to watch the Safal Cup football tournament!

While Chitrakar is making a name for himself, he still is a distant second in his family when it comes to fame. His younger sister is none other than Nepali pop music diva Nalina Chitrakar. However, at the rate he is closing sports deals it might not be too long before he is on level footing.