By Sushil Thapa,Fairfax,VA
Winning the Martyr's Memorial A Division League, Nepal’s top flight competition,is a dream come true for any team.
The pride,importance and joy of winning the biggest domestic trophy is literally overwhelming. No wonder, every team strives for excellence and success year after year.
The accomplishment assumes greater significance for the team that wins the Kathmandu league for the first time. First time winners Machhindra Football Club achieved the feat, much to the surprise of everyone.
They faced high odds to win the tourney at the start of the season. They made a slow start but gathered the much needed momentum and tempo in the later stages of the grueling competition. Rest is history. By clinching the title, Machhindra Football Club has carved a niche for themselves in domestic football. The overall performance was key to their success. They played a consistent, compact and positive brand of football throughout the competition. More importantly, they delivered the goods when it mattered most.
In the decisive match against Tribhuvan Army Club, they were in a must win situation. They did not disappoint as they rose to the occasion and sealed the deal in style. They stuck to their game plan,displayed solid composure,confidence and determination to upset the opposition. Champions Machhindra Football Club deserve to bask in glory. They had been under the shadow of dominant A list teams in the likes of Three Stars Club (TSC) Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) and Nepal Police Club(NPC) for a considerable period of time.
With the league title in their kitty, they are the newest powerhouse in Nepal football. Apparently, it was a culmination of hard work,commitment,collective effort, intelligent recruiting, sensible planning and preparation. Congratulations on your well deserved success. Keep in mind, this is only the beginning of a long journey. Moving forward, they must prove that the league title was not a flash in the pan. It is imperative that the Club remain totally focused and committed,continue to play total football, carry the drive and hunger to achieve more success in domestic football and beyond.
The Club has to exercise good governance, professionalism and effective management when it comes to planning, handling and preparing the team for short and long term challenges and goals. Once again, it was a tale of so close yet so far for second placed Tribhuvan Army Club. They stumbled at the final hurdle, squandering the chance to win the title,which they have been desperately seeking for several decades, Going into the decisive game against Machhindra Football Club, they were advantageously positioned needing a draw only. However,they failed to put the final nail in the coffin. Clumsiness and lethargic play contributed to their downfall. It is hard to believe that a dominant outfit like the army that has won every major domestic tournament is yet to win the Kathmandu League.
The other two strong contenders and multiple winners MMC and TSC failed to make an impact.They were far from their best and paid dearly for their mediocre performance. Likewise, NPC, once a heavyweight of Nepal football struggled for the most part. They played poorly, inconsistently and never got going. Another departmental team, the Armed Police Force barely escaped the relegation embarrassment. They performed below par and mightily struggled. Saraswoti Youth Club faced the relegation axe, following their bottom place finish.While Brigade Boys Club managed to hold their place by the skin of their teeth.
Foremost, the management of every participating Club must take good care of their players, physically and financially.They must protect and enhance their mental and physical well -being. Unfortunately, the majority of Clubs are without infrastructure (equipped with modern day equipment), training facilities and playing grounds, all important factors in the development of successful players and advancing the game to a higher level. There was no dearth of foreign players in the league. The rise of international players in the league is a recent phenomenon and a positive sign.
Despite the financial crunch, most clubs stepped up to sign foreign players with sole objectives to become more competitive and bolster the league’s profile. On the bright side, the league featured a host of young promising local players. Also in action were a bevy of foreign players totalling 40 from Guinéa, Nigeria, Cameroon, India, Japan, Brazil,Egypt,Ivory Coast, Mozambique and Tanzania.
Whether the presence of foreign players helped the league in terms of standards and spectators; interest is very much a subject of debate. In my opinion, the foreign recruits lacked quality, and their contributions to raise the league bar was insignificant. Understandably, almost all clubs are financially very weak and spending huge amounts to bring over quality players is beyond their reach. Overall, the league failed to impress, rouse and generate the much anticipated enthusiasm and excitement in football goers. It turned out to be a low- key spectacle. Going by the numbers there was a significant drop in attendance. There are multiple issues that must be addressed to make the league attractive, exciting, meaningful and competitive in the future.
Seemingly, lack of playing grounds and facilities, questionable management of All Nepal Football Association (ANFA), unsound planning and scheduling fixtures, absence of home stadiums for clubs, poor quality of matches and players’ performance, lack of amenity services in the stadium for fans and exorbitant ticket price affected the league in a big way. Furthermore, weak marketing strategies, spectators appetite for viewing top-level football competitions, lack of corporate sponsorship and broadcasting revenue and absence of football culture impacted the competition, as well.
I understand, it is easier said than done. To be fair, not every single issue can be addressed in the context of Nepal football. That being said, both ANFA and football clubs have a crucial role to play in the future of the league. Nothing will change if they continue to run away from their responsibilities. Everyone agrees, nothing changes if things are not done differently from what you have been doing. Kathmandu league has come a long way,however,it has not grown professionally. The fact of the matter is that it has stagnated over the last several decades largely due to mismanagement and incompetency of ANFA, especially under Ganesh Thapa.
The oldest league in the country is in desperate need of a facelift to make it more relevant. The focus must be on improving the product and fan experience.
Otherwise, it will remain limp and lifeless. ANFA led by Karma Tsering Sherpa deserves praise for the resumption of the league after a gap of three years. That said, however, the organization and management aspects of the league left much to be desired. It should be borne in mind that It is ANFA’s primary responsibility to make certain that they are highly organized and highly professional in everything they do.
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