League set to be postponedClouds of uncertainty kept hovering over the Nepali football sky after the latest effort to resume long-stalled top-tier football is set to be postponed for at least two months.
Clouds of uncertainty kept hovering over the Nepali football sky after the latest effort to resume long-stalled top-tier football is set to be postponed for at least two months.
All Nepal Football Association (Anfa), the football governing body, on Tuesday confirmed that it will not be able hold the proposed league before mid June owing to the May 14 local elections. Originally, the Anfa had announced to start the league from April 28.
The last time the top-tier football—Martyrs Memorial A Division League—was held in 2013-14 and the following year a new National League was introduced featuring nine teams including four districts and five A division clubs. Seven top-tier teams were left of the National League.
Ever since the National League, Anfa has been unable to organise top-tier league football. It found a very good pretext in Great Earthquake that killed thousands of people to conceal its inability. But critics believe the internal Anfa politics including the ouster of long-serving president Ganesh Thapa from power were the main reasons that left Anfa in tatters. Thapa was banned for 10 years by Fifa in 2015.
“All the clubs know about the uncertainty and we will come up the new dates for the league after monitoring the progress in local elections,” said Anfa President Narendra Shrestha. “Security issue is the major reason for postponing the event. Teams require 45-day preparation period and so the league is unlikely to start before the mid-June,” Shrestha added, who was voted to the post on October 24 last year. Shrestha was adamant, however, to conclude league before Dashain festival.
The proposed league will be held only to fill the void of top-tier football as it will not have a provision of relegation. Neither will any club be obliged to take part in the league, which Anfa plans to hold on weekends. “We are introducing the AFC Club Licensing system from this season but will strongly enforce it from next year,” said Shrestha. “But if any club do not adhere to the Club Licensing system from the next year, they will be relegated,” added Shrestha. Among the pre-requisites for the Licensing System, every clubs need to have their own/or shared training ground, youth (U-18) team and A license holder coach.
Players were the ones to be hit hard by the ongoing football uncertainty. Anfa president Shrestha accepts that players have been paying the high price for the absence of competitive football. “We are aware that our players are financially insecure. We are therefore putting up our best effort to organise the league properly,” said Shrestha.
National team midfielder Bikram Lama, who saw more than half a dozen of his A division club friends fly abroad for better pastures, said they were hit hard by the football “no show.” “In the absence of the league, we are not tied to any team and are free to represent any clubs in knockout tournaments. More importantly, playing in such tournament events will not help in the growth of players,” said Three Star Club captain Lama, who also played for Manang Marshyangdi Club and Sankata this season. “League is the backbone of football. It provides a real platform for not only the emerging but also the experienced players to showcase their talents,” added Lama.
Former national team assistant coach Meghraj KC said the absence of league for the last 3-4 years will have
an adverse effect on the overall development of Nepali football. “Nepali football failed to take off in recent years. The new players coming in is almost non-existent, while those talents that were there were forced to seek alternatives for their sustenance,” KC said. “Clubs will certainly face the dearth of quality players if the situation continues.”