After a short recess, here, I am, back to get myself moving again. Not much has happened on the field since the country was gripped by election fever. With the political soap opera over, things are gradually limping back to normal.
Prior to the election, the national football team of Nepal was in action at home,however, I was unable to pen my opinion about the team’s overall performance in a timely manner.
I kind of lagged behind. I am aware that everyone knows how Nepal performed, and what they achieved. I will tell you, it was an average performance, by and large.That said, the main bone of contention was/is, they did not concede the match. Is this a good thing or bad? You be the judge of that.
In retrospect, it was an important game for both sides. For the visitors they had everything to lose, while the host had another chance to redeem some pride.
At the end of the day, amidst mounting pressure Nepal was able to achieve a face saving result against group leader Philippines in the Asian Football Confederation 2018 Asia Cup qualifiers.
It was a frustrating spell for group leader Philippines as they failed to carve out a decisive victory to assure themselves a spot in the next round of the competition. Despite dominating the proceedings, they were unable to make the all important breakthrough and had to be content with a hugely disappointing draw.
On the other hand, once again it was a story of struggle for the host. They,however, withstood the opponent’s dominance for the most part and barely managed to hold them to a goalless draw.
Going into the match,things looked far from promising and encouraging for Nepal. Rightly so they were buried under an avalanche of criticisms for their lackadaisical approach and underperformance.
Leave alone away matches, Team Nepal’s uninspiring, sloppy performance at home raised a few eyebrows. More to the point, they played poor, mediocre football, failing to play to their potential and rise to the occasion.
They faced a massive challenge against the visitors and expectedly were the overwhelming underdogs. Apparently they needed a rock solid performance to get a positive result.
Philippines was heavily favored to win, and taking into account inconsistency and a run of poor form, coupled with poor home results,to most,including myself had ruled out an upset by the home side. As a matter of fact, they seemed not capable of turning the tide in their favour.
Having already exited from the competition,Nepal was not in a high pressure situation whatsoever, however, they had a chance to regain some respect with a respectable result and give frustrated fans at least something to rejoice over.
Another setback was something everyone dreaded. Pressure was on Japanese Coach Koji Gyotoku under scrutiny following a string of lackluster performance by his team.
It would be unfair to put the entire blame on the Japanese for the non performing team mired in mediocrity. It is a fact that a coach contributes a small percentage to a team’s overall success. That said, he has not shown the character and ability to turn things around even one bit.
Then we have the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA), a total disaster in terms of management,governance and leadership that is largely responsible for the declining standards of Nepal football.
The inclusion of Australia based Jagjeet Shrestha in the playing eleven was seen as an act of desperation to achieve something positive on part of ANFA. By the way the diminutive former Three Star Club star plays for Nunawading City FC, Melbourne, Victoria in the National Premier League Victoria 2.
Shrestha's inclusion in the team was hilarious and ludicrous in the sense Coach Koji knew nothing about it. He maintained that ANFA selected him without his knowledge or consent.
More importantly, the game will be remembered, especially for Anil Gurung who played for the last time for Team Nepal. I salute him for his invaluable contributions to Nepal football.
Given the current state of football and the people in charge of football governance, footballers and fans are struggling to stay optimistic about the future of football.
Moving forward into 2018, as long as Narendra Shrestha and company are in charge at ANFA, nothing much will change for Nepal football, a harsh and bitter reality.
Senior journalist Thapa is based at Fairfax, Virginia, USA.
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