By Aviskar KC
Nepal won the inaugural AFC Solidarity Cup, proving their mettle against teams in the lower echelons of AFC and going past teams like Timor-Leste, Brunei, Laos and Macau.
It certainly is a great achievement and will be remembered along with the two SAG Gold medals as one of Nepal’s finest victories.
Despite it being one of the greatest success stories in Nepal’s football history, coming back from the ruins of the earthquake, the match-fixing scandal and massive turmoil at ANFA to win three trophies in 2016, the AFC Solidarity Cup still has a lot of weaknesses.
Let’s not mince words at all. First of all, the tournament is for losers. The teams that could not make it out of the first rounds of the World Cup qualifiers got into this tournament.
Meaning while the qualified teams battled it out with much stronger teams in 8 home and away matches, the lesser teams were condemned to a tournament that lasted less than 4 days for some teams.
Secondly, the tournament was created according to AFC “to help teams get international matches” after many associations complained of the lack of football matches they could arrange for their teams. But it is certain that playing 4 matches in under 10 days in waterlogged and humid Malaysian conditions did not do Nepali football much favors and nor did Timor-Leste’s football take a leap by having two matches in three days added to their football calendar.
Had Nepal managed to scrape out a win against India in the first round of World Cup qualifiers, we could have been easily going to Japan to play their national team or welcome the Australian football team to Nepal, instead we had two friendlies organized in the year 2016 and played in the Solidarity Cup.
Of course winning trophies is great and defending what you won before is an even greater achievement, but avoiding the AFC Solidarity Cup which has been announced for the year 2020 should be the last competition Nepal should be involved in.
Be it managing to up their positions in the FIFA rankings or preparing a great national team to beat the team they face in the first round World Cup qualifiers next time and avoid another participation in a worthless tournament like the AFC Solidarity Cup must be Nepal’s first and foremost goal and the journey to do so must begin now.