ANFA misused Qatar World Cup ticketsNepal’s football governing body passed the tickets on to AFC officials to gain ‘favour’
All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) is found to have misused Qatar’s FIFA World Cup tickets that Nepal obtained from the world football governing body FIFA.
According to documents obtained by the Post, ANFA received at least 290 World Cup tickets in the capacity of non-playing member association of FIFA for the global showpiece held in Qatar from November 20 to December 18.
Among the 290 tickets, top office bearers of ANFA distributed 75 to the office bearers of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to gain ‘unwanted favour.’ The purpose of providing such tickets to member association’s Football Association (FA) is to prioritise the citizens of respective countries in obtaining such tickets, but ANFA distributed them free of cost to AFC office bearers.
ANFA spokesperson Suresh Shah and general secretary Kiran Rai on Wednesday confirmed that Nepal had received 290 tickets. Shah, in a news article published on BBC Nepali News portal on November 15, 2022, was quoted as saying that Nepal had received only 215 tickets and the AFC took the remaining 75 tickets.
But when asked on Wednesday, exactly a month after Lionel Messi’s Argentina lifted the World Cup crown on December 18, about the recipient of tickets allocated to Nepal, both Shah and Rai were reluctant to answer and said they were preparing the list of buyers.
“We are in the process of preparing a list of buyers,” said Rai. “It will take a few more days for us to finalise the buyers list.” He also said that they distributed some tickets to their wellwishers. But they declined to state who the well wishers were. When quizzed if they were AFC officials, he said: “Some of them may be employees at the AFC who have been lending a helping hand to us.”
ANFA officials, including ANFA President Pankaj Nembang, German citizen Nabin Pande, who is adviser to Nembang, and Rai distributed the tickets to AFC office bearers, including deputy general secretary Vahid Kardany, said a source who did not want to be identified.
Apart from Kardany, other AFC office bearers and employees were also the recipients of tickets, according to multiple sources. AFC’s communication chief Ravi Kumar did not respond to the Post, despite repeated attempts to know why AFC took the 75 tickets allocated to Nepal.
According to the list of 290 tickets received by the Post, Nepal had got 10 tickets of the final match between Argentina and France, out of which ANFA distributed five to AFC office bearers. Same was the ticket distribution proportion of the semi-final between the world champions and Luka Modric’s Croatia. Of the total 10 tickets Nepal obtained for the opening match between hosts Qatar and Ecuador, ANFA was generous enough to distribute six tickets.
Why did ANFA distribute tickets?
The football governing body of Nepal distributed tickets to pay off the favour they received from AFC, because the Asian football body paid for the tickets to FIFA at a time when ANFA was not in the situation to pay the cash totalling US$116,922.96. However, the condition was that ANFA reimburse the equivalent amount to AFC, according to documents obtained by the Post.
“President Nembang has filed candidacy for member in the upcoming AFC Executive Committee election to be held on February 1. It seems that he wants to get favour in the election from office bearers of AFC and its employees,” said Dirgharaj KC, one of the vice presidents of ANFA. “We will raise the issue why ANFA gave Nepal’s tickets to AFC at the upcoming meeting.”
AFC President Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa has retained the top job unopposed.
Another ANFA vice president Dipak Khatiwada said that ANFA decided to give the tickets to AFC because they have been supporting and helping Nepali football whenever needed. “There were also some discussions at ANFA on whether to give tickets to AFC or not. But the leadership decided to give away the tickets as they had been supporting us,” he said.
The policy of Nepal’s central bank requires mandatory approval for foreign exchange due to the country’s depleting dollar reserves.
A letter sent by ANFA general secretary Kiran Rai to AFC general secretary Datuk Seri Windsor John dated 30 June, 2022 had clarified the situation of Nepal requesting AFC to make payments on their behalf. “We are not in the position to purchase World Cup tickets due to our Nepal Government’s foreign currency transaction policy. We humbly request you to pay on behalf of ANFA and we will compensate an equivalent amount in AFC account immediately,” Rai had stated in the letter.
Two weeks after the letter, AFC’s general secretary Windsor John confirmed to Rai that AFC would make the ticket payments. “Due to the restrictions of the foreign exchange policy of the Nepalese Government, we hereby confirm that AFC shall pay for the listed tickets to be purchased by ANFA and the payment will be made directly to FIFA,” stated the correspondence on the official AFC letterhead.
“We also note your guarantee to transfer the US dollar equivalent for the ticket cost into the ANFA dedicated Enhanced bank account by 31 October 2022,” the letter further added.
Advisor Pande later wrote to AFC deputy general secretary Vahid Kardany: “Thank you very much for your effort to pay on behalf of ANFA. ……Also let me know how many tickets you may require. We have the possibility to request for more tickets, in case you need them,” Pande had written.
Pande was appointed as the international relations head of ANFA on June 22 last year, two days after the Nembang-led committee was elected to lead Nepal’s football governing body. He was later assigned to be the president’s adviser on August 11 the same year, stripping him of his previous responsibility.
Treasurer Joshi in dark about payment
Apart from ticket distribution, the Nembang-led ANFA needs to pay $116,922.96 for the tickets. But ANFA treasurer Rabindra Joshi says he does not know if the amount is to be paid or not.
“I don’t know all things about payments,” Joshi said on Thursday and suggested that General Secretary Rai may have the answers. Rai, however, did not give a clear reply. “We are in the process of making payments. We have paid some amount and some amount is yet to be paid,” he said at the ANFA headquarters on Wednesday. “It could take four or five days more to come up with exact figures of the payments we have made.”