The ongoing Martyr’s Memorial ‘A’ Division League football tournament in Kathmandu has been full of surprises and upsets to this point.
After considerable delay, the much-anticipated double round-robin format league finally got underway on March 3. Fourteen teams including newly promoted Church Boys United Club(CBUC) and Khumaltar Youth Club(KYC) are in the fray. Going strictly by the results so far,it has been nothing short of chaotic. It is too soon to say anything definite,but it appears though the race for the title is wide open.
Interestingly no team has looked invincible and unbeatable. If current trend holds,the likelihood of rank outsiders winning the league cannot be completely ruled out. The way the league has panned out must have come as a surprise to watchers of Nepal football.I didn’t expect this coming also. Front runners and favorites for the title in the likes of Machhindra Football Club(MFC),Nepal Army Football Club(AFC), Manang Marshyangdi Club(MMC) and Sankata Football Club have had a very poor and shaky start to the season. Taking into account their overall performances to this stage,they have badly struggled and faltered by their standards.
They have not found their groove on the pitch. Last season’s champions MFC and runners up NAFC are in seventh and sixth positions respectively.Everything's not lost yet. They will have to turn things around quickly to get back into contention.The key is that they cannot afford to drop points further in their catch up efforts. Another big name missing in the top three standings is former champions MMC.They have not displayed elements of a champion in their performance.
They must shrug off mediocrity and find form to get back in the race. Only a point behind and second in the table standings is Three Star Club,the only heavyweight truly in contention for the championship title. They have made up some lost ground and remain within striking distance of topping the league table. Unheralded Jawalakhel Youth Club(JYC) is in the pole position.They have been the surprise package in the competition. They are having a dream run so far.This could be the year to end their title drought. They have a one point cushion which is razor thin. No doubt,there is still a lot of hard work ahead of them. JYC's league title hope was dented following a surprise 1-2 defeat at the hands of strugglers Himalayan Sherpa Club(HSC) recently.
Despite defeat,they still lead the pack.They have to regroup,find momentum and get back to winning ways. If they want to continue their dominance in the league,they must remain one hundred percent focused,determined,confident,positive and resilient until the end.They cannot allow mediocrity creep into their performance. The shock of the tournament has been former champions Mahendra Police Club’s abysmal performance. With 3 wins in 13 outings they are languishing at the bottom of the table and facing the danger of relegation.
For the first time in the history of the league the team has hit rock bottom.The performance has been inept and pathetic to say the least. They will have to make a dramatic improvement in their performance in the remaining matches, if they want to escape relegation blues. Although HSC is second from the bottom, it is locked in a relegation battle with KYC and New Road Team(NRT). The three teams sit with 13 points and only goal difference separates them.They are paying a heavy price for underperforming so far. Sankata Football Club(SFC), NRT and Friends Club,three of the oldest clubs in Nepal were expected to make an impact this season.However,they have appeared mediocre,listless and find themselves in danger of dropping to B Division.
Armed Police Force (APF) dogged by inconsistent performance and a string of defeats initially has bounced back to steady the ship. Currently they are 6th in the standings and require a vastly improved performance to consolidate their position further. Since its promotion to A Division in 2021 Satdobato Youth Club has been able to make an impression. They finished the 2021-22 season in 4th place.Given their overall performance,they fully justified their promotion to A Division. This season they have had a good run to date.As of now they are third in the standings and two points behind league leaders JYC.
They must continue to play a positive brand of football,coupled with consistency, focus and commitment. If they succeed doing so they can be looked upon as strong contenders for the title. Newcomers CBUC and KYC have lived up to expectations.They have been playing with lots of grit, fire,confidence and determination. CBUC is in 5th position with a chance at the league title, but KYC in 12th position must get their act together and play a more robust game to save themselves from relegation nightmare.
As things stand there is so much unpredictability and uncertainty surrounding the league.As a result, it is not easy and makes it hard to predict league winners or teams likely to be relegated. African players continue to make their presence in the league in big numbers.Barring a few they have been signed by all clubs.Foreign players are supposed to help raise the league standards significantly. A majority of foreign players in the league are lacking quality and experience.Overall their impact on the league has been negligible.
It is obvious that the clubs are financially struggling, lacking resources and not in a position to sign high value players. The sole objective of the league is to help the development of national teams, provide a platform to homegrown players and unearth talents.Clearly that has not happened.
All Nepal Football Association must take measures to redefine the league making it more meaningful and productive. The football body did the right thing by taking disciplinary action against five clubs and officials for various disciplinary violations in the ongoing league.Never compromise on discipline.
By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax,VA, USA
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