News Nepal Underdogs Against 'unknown' Bahrain !
Sushil Thapa

Things are far from rosy for the men’s national football team of Nepal.

To put it bluntly, they have been struggling like never seen before on the field. Currently they are going through a prolonged slump. It has been a story of one disappointment after another in international competitions.

The declining fortunes of football in the country is palpable. The recent 1-4 defeat against Malaysia in a friendly match further exposed Nepal’s vulnerability. Amidst great challenges,Nepal is gearing up for the double header against Bahrain in the FIFA World Cup AFC Qualification 2026 Second Round Group H match in Bahrain.

Nepal’s home game was moved to Bahrain after the Asian Football Confederation inspection team found the Dasarath Rangasala pitch embarrassingly in bad condition and deemed it sub-standard. It is a classic case of gross negligence on the part of All Nepal Football Association(ANFA). What a shame!

They had ample time to ensure the safety and playability of the ground. Unfortunately, it can be said that they shamelessly chose not to. As a result, they squandered the opportunity to host the crucial qualifier in front of local fans whose support for the team would have made a big difference in the team’s performance.

"Nepal has never played against Bahrain in international football. They have however played against their U23 team in the final of 2016 Bangabandhu gold cup that Nepal won".

Having lost to the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, Nepal is winless and languishing at the bottom of the table. Their World Cup Qualifier run can end if they lose both upcoming matches. Nepal on a dismal four-match losing streak faces an uphill climb against favorites Bahrain. They carry the minnows tag and the odds are heavily stacked against them with six new players in the team.

The physically, technically superior and well prepared Middle Eastern outfit enjoys a clear edge over the failing opponent. In spite of challenges, Nepal must go full throttle and give their best to overcome the odds . They have to be gutsy, resilient, aggressive, confident, competitive and display dogged fighting spirit,coupled with effective teamwork in the face of adversity. They should not be overly defensive allowing the opposition to overwhelm them. It is imperative that they translate scoring chances into goals.

Nepal must continue to strive to do better regardless of the result. Despite frequent coaching changes, the team’s overall performance has remained far from encouraging and stagnant. There has been no significant changes in terms of performance and results since Italian Alberto Vincenzo Annese took over the national team as the head coach. To be fair, we cannot hold him accountable alone.

There are many variables affecting the team’s poor performance. There is nothing surprising in this.We have been witnessing this for decades. A coach hands are tied, given the sad state of Nepal football. He/she does not hold a magic wand to change things around overnight. No matter how good or experienced a coach might be, he can’t be effective if he doesn’t have necessary tools, resources and support.

The fact of the matter is that a new head coach, be it foreign or home born,is no longer the solution. Nepal football is beset by a multitude of problems that are stymieing development and infrastructure.

Foremost ANFA plagued by systemic issues like weak leadership, maladministration, groupism, mismanagement, petty politics, incompetence and unaccountability is the biggest problem in itself. There is absence of a collective effort to initiate meaningful and sustainable reforms to put Nepal football in the right direction.

Until and unless serious efforts are made to adequately address the root causes of the problems, the national team will continue to underperform and Nepal football landscape will remain unchanged.

By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax,VA, USA

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