By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax, VA
So, finally the ice has been broken, and broken for good. The long wait is over. The Under-23 national football team of Nepal ended the twenty-three years drought at the South Asian Federation Games in Guwahati, India.
Hats Off to Coach Raju Shakya and his boys for the fantastic result and restoring pride to Nepal football. Congratulations! We are all so proud of you. You have made the entire country proud.
Undeniably, the grand success has renewed hopes that football can awaken from its decades long slumber. Hopefully, this marks the beginning of a new era for Nepali football and bodes well for the future.
Do not be fooled into believing that Nepal’s latest feat is a result of All Nepal Football Association’s (ANFA) program development and planning.
This is the result of players’ natural talent, pure ability, continuous hard toil and extraordinary commitment. The success, which makes the entire endeavor, I must say, is incredibly so very gratifying and satisfying.
The talent packed squad’s accomplishment came at the expense of India. The boys lived up to their potential, challenge and proved themselves beyond doubt to be a good side.
It was truly an amazing and splendid performance. They displayed remarkable poise, courage, confidence, positive attitude, aggression, fighting spirit and drive to succeed all the way to the end.
This success was made possible largely due to the exceptional teamwork and individual brilliance. Even more important, they played positive brand of football, made the most of the opportunity and demonstrated resilient never give up attitude. That made a world of difference at the end of the day.
Looking back at the title race, finalists Nepal and India were on par in terms of ability, potential and performance. It was wide open and evenly balanced for teams.
Coach Shakya’s lads had to cash in on the opportunity presented to them, hit top form, overcoming the final hurdle and ending on a high note. In other words, it was a make -or -break situation.
It was no easy task, not by any stretch of the imagination. They faced a tough test against the archrival. Besides, they had to handle the home ground advantage heavily favoring the opposition also.
Team Nepal had waited for, anticipated for years for that big moment. It was at last within their reach and could not afford to squander it.
Furthermore, they needed to prove they could/can win pressure cooker matches. When all was said and done, they came out victorious. They simply refused to lose.
The tremendous fighting spirit and determination of incredible proportion Nepal displayed in the semi-final and final was outstanding.
The spectacular comeback against Maldives to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat was turning point for Nepal.
Having been at the receiving end for over two decades, all of a sudden, Nepal seemed to have risen from the ashes.
So very hard to believe that in less than two months they have won two international championships. By all accounts, this is a very encouraging outcome.
The emergence of talented young players in the likes of Nawayug Shrestha, Bikesh Kuthu, Prakash Budhathoki, Anjan Bista, Bimal Gharti Magar, Bishal Rai, Ananta Tamang, Aditya Chaudhary and Bikram Lama is a positive for Nepali football.
Sporting success in any form or shape has great significance, especially when the national team is involved. It becomes a rallying point for fans. At the same time, they are overcome with patriotism, joy, jubilation, contentment and celebration.
Sustainable success is what matters most, which can be achieved through formulation of goals and priorities, coupled with team culture and healthy environment.
That being said, success, however, is short-lived. It comes and goes in waves. We can all fly the flag and bask in the reflected glory for a certain period of time.
Once the dust settles down, it is business as usual. The success achieved by the Under-23 squad clearly underlines the fact that there is no dearth of talents in the country, and we certainly can improve our standings in international football but not under the present administration.
The bitter reality is that Nepali football has a very long way to go. There is a whole lot of work to be done before systematic uncertainties and impediments surrounding football can be eliminated.
Look at District Football Associations in the country; the present state of affairs is sad and depressing. They are left to manage their own resources and financial needs with very little or no support from ANFA and only remembered during elections year.
Despite everything, football in districts is still alive today thanks largely to committed football patrons and advocates who have invested their own time and money for the love of football to keep it going.
We all agree that Nepali football needs a comprehensive change for the betterment of football, administratively, structurally and financially.
On top of that, what we need is clean football governance, new dynamic leadership, with administrative will to instill a culture of transparency and accountability.
The biggest irony is that we still have the same incompetent people excluding Mr. Ganesh Thapa running the show. Forget not that they have been in office for as long we can all remember.
They have brought nothing but hardship and led Nepali football on the path of humiliation, embarrassment and destruction.
For over two decades, they engaged shamelessly in sycophancy and worked hand in glove with Mr. Thapa as a team, turning a blind eye to the overall development of football.
In other words, mismanagement, corruption, cronyism and nepotism ruined Nepali football. If only they had been true, honest and committed to their job, perhaps, it could have made a world of difference. They have allowed Mr. Thapa to run the show from behind the scenes to date, which is disgusting.
Should Nepali football continue to go down the same path, nothing changes and the future path will continue the same as before.
President of Asian Football Confederation Mr. Salman Bin Ibrahim Al-Khalifa’s unsuccessful bid for the FIFA Presidency must have been a big blow to suspended Mr. Thapa, shattering his hope for some kind of reprieve from him. The die has been cast.
The upcoming ANFA election is crucial for Nepali football’s future. In most likelihood, Mr. Thapa will leave no stone unturned to ensure his son and cronies get elected. If he succeeds, it will be a total disaster.
Can he be stopped? Yes. I believe. But it takes a united front to stymie Mr. Thapa’s nefarious scheme.
Thapa is a senior sports journalist based in USA.