New sports chief faces major challenges aheadWhile Ramesh Silwal needs to set priorities right, he also requires to make sure his job does not clash with interest of political party he is associated with.
A close aide to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Silwal is a Nepal Communist Party cadre with his hands on different pies—mostly sports and education sectors. A chemistry teacher and educationist by profession, Silwal is expected to be one of the most powerful member secretaries, directly backed by the executive head of the state.
Soon after he was appointed at the top post of Nepali sports, the social media handlers congratulated Silwal heaping praise on him as the right man for the job. He is someone whom Nepali sports has known for a long time. He now shoulders big responsibilities and heavy expectations. As the matter of fact, Silwal has been entrusted to take care of a fractured system where most of the sports disciplines has failed to take off, both in terms of infrastructure and international achievements. The one and only international-standard stadium—Dashrath Stadium—is itself racing against time to host the 13th South Asian Games slated for December 1-10. It is currently undergoing renovation.
Barring cricket which, despite all odds and in absence of a cricket governing body, has managed to gain One-Day International status, other sports disciplines merely make up the numbers rather than make their presence felt at the global stage. The entire sports fraternity will now count on him with expectations of at least laying a foundation for better future.
Stranglehold in politics
Like all of his predecessors, Silwal is a political appointee as has been the trend. The ruling party has the discretion to hand-pick an individual for the job. Silwal’s appointment comes in that line but courtesy his long and strong relationship with PM Oli.
He was the vice-president under Oli in the-then CPN-UML youth wing Youth Association Nepal which was established after People’s Movement-I. That was the time when Silwal flexed his muscle in the party politics as an intellectual leader. He left a good impression on Oli who later appointed him as the Chairman of the MadanBhandari Sports Academy—a sports wing named under the party’s former influential leader.
A strong link with a strong leader of country’s biggest political party has also helped him take reins of the Higher Institutions and Secondary Schools’ Association Nepal—an umbrella organisation of private schools and colleges across the country. But at the same time, Silwal was dragged into controversy when in 2016 former member secretary Keshav Kumar Bista—also a NCP leader—appointed him the president of an ad-hoc committee of the Cricket Association of Nepal to hold the fresh elections.
Following disputed elections in the cricket governing body, Bista had formed the ad-hoc committee and Silwal remained his prime pick. The committee, however, was dissolved later with Silwal also partly blamed for leading a disputed committee that resulted in CAN’s suspension which still stays.
Yubaraj Lama, the former member secretary from 2011 to 2015, believes its the same political appointment that could be the biggest setback for Silwal. “The appointment of member secretaries by political parties often seem to be an adjustment of their leaders/cadres. Such trend only ends up holding sports captive. It can be called a reward for serving the party for a long time. Silwal is the one who is quite familiar with Nepali sports and he cannot afford to fall victim to a balancing act (with the political party he is associated with),” Lama told the Post from his hometown in Nijgadh where he now runs a hotel.
“Being affiliated to a political party, member secretaries have made NSC a recruitment centre for their cadres, either reluctantly or willingly. It will be interesting to see where Silwal will puts his focus on. Its a challenge but there is big opportunity ahead as well because he will work with local, provincial and central government now. He has to set aside this party influence, take stand when required, coordinate with all governments and lay a strong foundation of sports for future,” added Lama.
The day Silwal received an appointment letter from Youth and Sports Minister JagatBahadurBishwakarma, Silwal made a case for taking up the responsibility. “I always start daily newspapers from the last page because sports is something that I have always loved. I have spent two third of my life and the remaining one third will be given to sports. PM urged me to take over the job
and the challenges that comeswith it,” Silwal said after he was sworn in.
“I request everyone not to invite me for programmes like inauguration and prize distribution. I neither want to give prolonged interviews. I believe in action and would like to answer in action,” added Silwalwho is also the Chief Executive Officer of the Golden Gate International College.
Silwal is one of those rare member secretaries who has been closely associated with multiple sports long before being appointed to the post. He owns Kathmandu Goldens franchise in the Dhangadhi Premier League Twenty20 cricket and has Golden Gate International Club as the inaugural champions of the Nepal Basketball League. He is also the patron of Golden Gate Chess Club.
Prior to his appointment as the member secretary, Silwal has already been an administrator. That experience, however, has been on the minuscule unlike the NSC job that calls for governing the whole sporting sector. His major challenge begins with the 13th South Asian Games which the country is hosting from December 1-10 after already being postponed thrice.
Nepal is still not prepared to host the sub-continental sporting showpiece as most of the infrastructure are yet to get a complete shape. Silwal has chosen to remain adamant in hosting the Games, though. “It was national shame that the South
Asian Games had to be postponed thrice. We have to work together to hold the sporting extravaganza right on time,” he said.
Even bigger challenge for Silwal is to set the priorities right and that would be the development of the sports. He needs to make sure that the development of sports do not clash with the interest of the political party he is associated with. Or else he would end up being just another member secretary serving the political interests rather than sports.
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