How Will FIFA Forward Affect Nepali Football?

fifa_generic_logo8x4Sakar Prasain

After the 66th FIFA Congress held in Mexico City, it was decided that the world football association will increase the amount of money given to its members associations, including ANFA. The rise in financial assistance from FIFA is enormous; from now on, in compliance with the regulations and checks of the FIFA Development Committee, each member nation will receive a minimum of $1.25 million a year, with an extra $400,000 possible to earn in compliance with certain criteria and even more from the distribution of money through the confederations.

Such a rise in financial assistance is quite generous; despite the crisis surrounding the central football authority of the world, FIFA has managed to sustain a continuous increase in the level of wealth distribution to its members. I imagine that for a football association like ANFA that consistently complains about its lack of funding, such news will be welcome with open satisfaction.

Moreover, there is a significant amount of good that can possibly come about through this new program, named FIFA Forward. In a country like Nepal that has an abundance of issues, including an absence of stadiums of an internationally acceptable standard, a serious lack of professionalism among clubs, and a troubling lack of rudimentary grassroots programs to hold even a basic standard of high level football, the possibilities provided by over a million dollars can prove to be infinite.

However, the most fundamental, yet overlooked sector in which resources must be allocated in is marketing. This is due to the fact that while over a million dollars of annual aid from FIFA is an extraordinary amount, it is absolutely necessary for ANFA to invest in projects that can possibly gain back a profit if the most optimal level of development in Nepali football is to be achieved. Specifically, the idea of ANFA making investments into merchandise such as national team jerseys and other forms of fan gear, along with proper advertising, that can potentially prove valuable to consumers is one that can prove to be quite beneficial.

More precisely, the economic prospects are quite bright; as money would be used to produce sporting gear-which would likely prove to be quite favored due to football’s stature and popularity in Nepal-and its advertising, an opportunity to attract major sponsorships would create a higher chance of earning a profit on the investment. This, combined with the regular sales, boost in interest surrounding the sport, and a more sophisticated appearance to the approach through which ANFA tackles its issues, could later be used to contribute even more so to the wellbeing of football in Nepal.

But the question of what after that still arises. In other words, even with the benefits of merchandise that lead to ultimately even more money than the original allocated financial resources from FIFA, what will this money ultimately be used for?

Personally, I believe that infrastructure is the most basic step towards developing any level of professional football. Without it, there can be no sustained domestic activity. At the moment, outside of the artificial pitch at the ANFA Complex, there is not a single well maintained football field in all of Nepal. After neglecting the already poorly maintained Dasarath Stadium, ANFA and the NSC have allowed Nepal’s only international stadium to rot. As a result, footballers have practically nowhere they can practice their occupation in an ideal manner, especially those who live outside and farther away from the Kathmandu Valley.

In order to solve this problem, it is crucial that ANFA uses that money they will receive through this FIFA Forward program towards building a minimum of 5 different football grounds spread throughout the nation. By doing so, footballers of all parts of the country can have a chance to play in a more professional settings and perform to the maximum of their abilities. Also, having more attractive fields that lead to more attractive football will most certainly lead to a greater number of fans, which can not only add match revenue, but will also go to add on to the rising fan culture of Nepali football. This fan culture, which has already seen a profound effect through clubs such as MMC and Three Star Club, will only further go to build the momentum of domestic football in Nepal.

After basic infrastructure is finally addressed, only then can ANFA truly focus on organizing national leagues to the best of its abilities. A proper league structure for both men and women that span out for over at least 20 matches for each team, with each match played on the weekends so that players have enough time to rest and fan have a better chance of being available to attend, is what could ultimately lead to a true revolutionary burst of development in Nepali football.

These leagues could be conducted throughout the nation with the coordination of the clubs and the infrastructure required for professional football. Gradually, youth team competitions could also be introduced along with B and C divisions in order to truly propel the nation towards becoming one of the most capable footballing nations in Asia.

However, despite such steady growth in the financial resources of ANFA, it is very difficult to say whether or not this will result in serious development in Nepali football. As seen time and time again throughout the history of Nepal’s football association, there is a severe inability on the part of the leadership to properly organize and sufficiently plan football activities in a way that would lead to proper development.

For example, in the past, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been sent on sectors such as woman’s football and men’s competitions, yet they have experienced an undeniable decline in Nepal; where and just how this money has been spent remains a mystery.

Furthermore, this incapability to properly steer Nepali football in a satisfactory direction, combined with substantiated suspicions of mishandling financial resources, makes it quite plausible to suggest that it would require nothing short of an utter miracle for ANFA to actually use all this money to good use.

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