The first edition of the franchise- based Nepal Super League Football Championship concluded in Kathmandu recently.
The tournament was organized and managed by Nepal Sports and Event Management(NSEM). Likewise,All Nepal Football Association( ANFA) handled the technical aspect of the competition.
The historical NSL played in front of an empty Dashrath Stadium amids the raging COVID-19, unfortunately,will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
ANFA's decision to hold the tournament showed blatant disregard for players and coaches health and safety.
Furthermore,the competition was organised in the most amateurish way and the teams faced nightmare fixtures.
Personally,I was thrilled when I heard about the franchise- based Nepal Super League,the first of its kind in the history of Nepal football taking place. As a matter of fact,the entire football fraternity in the country had anticipated a tournament of this magnitude and kind for decades.
We are grateful and thankful to NSEM for starting professional football with the support of seven corporate houses,and their involvement in domestic football.
In all fairness to ANFA, I applaud them for striking a deal with NSEM and making a franchise- based football tournament finally happen.
The start of NSL is a major breakthrough for Nepal football.There is not an iota of doubt, it brings a fresh start,a sense of optimism and new challenges to domestic football that has stagnated over the years.Undoubtedly it energizes growth of football across the country.
The corporate houses have a vital role in the development of football.Forgetting not,it is much more than just competing in tournaments,and it goes beyond that. As a matter of fact,the involvement has to start from grass roots level.Besides, development of infrastructures and training centers, academies and creating club culture must be their top priorities moving forward.
Let us hope that they are seriously committed to the cause of football.NSL was the ideal platform to get started.
We hope other corporate houses follow suit. No one disagrees that they hold the key to the future of Nepal football. Also I would like to add, the tournament has to grow in terms of quality and productivity. Even more importantly, a sporting event like NSL requires sufficient preparation,logistical planning and a proper understanding of the event itself.
A lot goes into putting together a successful and meaningful competition.It should not just be a tournament for the name sake.
Disastrous Timing of NSL
Let me be very clear,I wholeheartedly support the NSL.I have absolutely nothing against it. That said,it is important to point out shortcomings of the competition. NSEM had nothing to do with the scheduling ,fixtures and format of the tournament. The scheduling of the competition amidst the pandemic totally defied logic.Given the enormity and severity of the fast spreading virus, in my humble opinion,the tournament should have been postponed,especially to safeguard players and coaches well-being and safety.
ANFA responsible for setting up the date for the tournament and scheduling the fixtures knowingly put players and coaches in harm's way.They had a vested interest in seeing the tournament kick start regardless.
The tournament was not a yearly event but was squeezed into the current calendar.They rushed to organize and end the competition at the earliest. It was very obvious that ANFA wanted to get a lot of mileage out of the tournament to improve their image and standings.They should not forget the fact that they were very close to ruining
Punishing Format & Fixtures
The fixtures and format of the competition was grueling and brutal.Teams were forced to play as many as three games a week sans proper and adequate rest in demanding and strenuous circumstances.
The competition took a heavy toll on players physically and mentally.They were susceptible to injuries. During the course of play, we witnessed a significant number of players injured.Some players played through injuries,while others had to call it quits.
The impact was adverse and devastating on the players.As a result,they were unable to perform to their full potential and ability.
Also fairness of the fixture schedule raised a few eyebrows.It favoured a certain team over the others by enjoying more rest days between games than any other team. Without a home- and- away championship format,the entire tournament was played in the same venue. Evidently the Dasharath stadium ground was overplayed. Playing conditions were far from perfect and players risked injuries.Some parts of the pitch were uneven with bumps prominent. Players struggled to control the ball and hindered their overall performance.
Abundance of Homegrown Talents
One thing is sure,there is no dearth of talent in the country.The tournament brought together some of the finest players from across the country to compete and showcase their talents. Despite the grim situation,one could sense the eagerness,excitement and enthusiasm of the players.They were super excited to be able to play in the tournament.
They knew this was the opportunity to prove themselves to impress national selectors. In addition, they have realized that NSL has offered them the dream of having a career in football. We cannot deny the fact that we have wasted talents for a long period of time due to the absence of the culture of talent identification, development and nurturing.
NSL has also opened the door for local coaches to improve and further their career prospects.Of the seven teams, five teams had homegrown coaches in NSL,which is an encouraging sign.
The presence of foreign players can improve the level of football and overall standards of performance of home-grown players. They contribute to the quality of the competition, makes games more competitive to watch and
attracts fans to stadiums. Home-grown players will immensely benefit and have the chance to learn and play alongside or compete against foreign players.
That said, lower quality foreign signings will not help both NLS and domestic football to grow. By and large,foreign players signed by the teams were average. The seven participants of NSL were evenly matched in terms of playing standards, strengths and weaknesses. They played with lots of guts, passion and fire, against all odds.
Hat’s off to players,coaching staff,umpires, linesman,medical teams,ball boys, security personnels and ground maintenance workers for the hard work. Congratulations Kathmandu Rayzrs FC on a splendid success.It is a success,you truly deserved.
ANFA must learn from their mistakes so that they do not run the risk of repeating it. The tournament needs to be well planned,professional and serve its purpose. It is therefore of vital importance to make NSL meaningful and successful by all possible means. Otherwise, it will be just another competition.
By Sushil Thapa,Fairfax,VA, USA