News Without A Doubt NSL Is The Biggest & Most Important Platform For Players
Sushil Thapa

The much publicized, talked about and eagerly anticipated second edition of the Nepal Super League concluded in Kathmandu recently. Nepal’s premier franchise based club football league,the first of its kind,got a new champion in Lalitpur City FC. The Lalitpur outfit capped a winning performance to prevail over Dhangadhi FC 3-2 in an absorbing and entertaining final.

Overall they put on a good show climbing to the top from mid- table position and winning the title eventually. They made a quick turnaround, eliminating Kathmandu Rayzrs and Pokhara Thunders in must win eliminator and second qualifier matches respectively. It was a disappointing end for Dhangadhi FC for the second successive season as they had to settle for the runner up position. They finished behind Pokhara Thunders in standings but carved out an important victory over them in the first qualifier for a place in the final.

In the final against Lalitpur they seemed destined for glory when they took an early lead but their fortunes took a hit after they conceded three goals and were reduced to ten players in the 80th minute. In spite of reducing the score line in the dying minutes of the game,they did not have time to restore parity. On the other hand, a promising start went in vain for defending champions Kathmandu Rayzers.They struggled for form when it mattered most and fizzled out in decisive matches. Table toppers Pokhara Thunders failed to cash in on the momentum and ended up losing both qualifying matches.

Of the three new teams, Jhapa FC had the best finish. Although they were level on points with Lalitpur City and Butwal Lumbini FC they finished fifth behind the former and above the latter due to their inferior and superior goal difference respectively. Birgunj United FC and Sporting Ilam De Mechi FC were tied on points.However,the Birgunj outfit took the 8th position on a better goal difference. The scoring was dominated by foreign players with Imoh Ezekiel of Lalitpur City topping with 6 goals. Likewise,with 5 goals each William Opoku(Birganj) and Moses Gyabaah Twum(Pokhara) shared the second position. Further down the players scoring list from 4 to 3 goals, there was not a single local player. Rajiv Lopchan(Kathmandu),Arik Bista(Butwal), Ayush Ghalan(Pokhara) and Dinesh Henjan(Lalitpur) were amongst the goal scorers with 2 goals each.While eight other local players opened their account with a goal. Clearly there was a lack of scoring from local players. Ananta Tamang was voted the tournament’s best player. That, eventually, was the good news. There was a big sigh of relief once the competition finally kicked off after a year of uncertainty and delay. Foreign players' performance grabbed headlines for the most part.Home grown players were not far behind and left no stones unturned when it came to dishing out encouraging performances.

There was no dearth of up-and -coming local players in the competition.They were able to showcase their potential and skills. In my opinion it was a hectic match schedule as the tournament was played over just seven weeks.

Clearly players did not get adequate rest after games.This impacted players overall performance and put them at risk of becoming injured during matches. It seemed though the organizer rushed to finish off the competition.They must take note of the schedule and make changes to make it less hectic next season, The possible presence of Ivorian legendary footballer Didier Drogba in the inaugural match of the second season added glitter and mileage to the tournament. It was a smart marketing strategy on the part of the Nepal Sports and Events Management(NSEM),the organizer of the competition. However Drogba didn't attend the event.

The magnitude of a tournament in the stature of Nepal Super League(NSL) is immense,especially in the context of Nepal football. Without a doubt NSL is the biggest and most important platform for local players domestically. Foremost, the continuity of the competition without any interruption to make a meaningful impact in the short and long run matters most. More importantly, the coordination amongst All Nepal Football Association, NSL and A Division needs to be much better for the smooth running of the tournament.

By Sushil Thapa,Fairfax ,VA, USA

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