De­ba­cle of ANFA

People's Review - - COMMENTARY - BY D.M. THAPA

There was a time when the All Nepal Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (ANFA) had no money. One friend told me how he and the coach of the na­tional team had to wait till eleven in the nigh and vir­tu­ally beg to an of­fi­cial be­fore they got the money due to them. The coach, him­self a good player said the team was not let out of a medi­ocre ho­tel in Kath­mandu, just be­cause he did not have money to pay for a cup of tea the play­ers had drank. It was later that play­ers started get­ting steady jobs in gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions and they at least re­ceived reg­u­lar salaries. Be­fore that foot­ball play­ers played for noth­ing. They were given a mea­ger break­fast and some meal if the team won, that was all. But this all changed when FIFA started pour­ing in funds in im­pov­er­ished coun­tries like Nepal. This the of­fi­cials did not do for the bet­ter­ment of the game, but to get votes and stay on in power. And why not, when the FIFA pres­i­dent could fly in a pri­vate lux­ury jet and earn lots of money they were ready to do any­thing. This has been proved from the lav­ish life lived by Jao Have­lange and now Sepp Blat­ter who was hid gen­eral sec­re­tary dur­ing Have­lange's time for decades. Blat­ter him­self went on to be pres­i­dent for more than a decade. Even while com­ing to Nepal just for one day, he flew in his pri­vate jet. This cer­tainly was a lu­cra­tive job. But the funds poured in by FIFA did not help in im­prov­ing Nepali fdoot­ball. In fact ANFA could not hold even reg­u­lar tour­na­ments like the Mar­tyr's Memo­rial league. This was a great set­back for Nepal's foot­ball. I had once met a high rank­ing FIFA of­fi­cial, who said that all teams do­ing well in the World Cup had a solid league tour­na­ment. “For a coun­try to de­velop foot­ball it has to build a solid base”, he had said. Even when ANFA had lit­tle re­sources, it reg­u­larly he A,B, C and D di­vi­sion league matches. At least an ef­fort was be­ing made to de­velop the game. Now only lo­cal clubs hold tour­na­ments and through the help of spon­sors they grant at­trac­tive prize money to win­ning teams and good play­ers. But this is not enough. The ques­tion arises, where has the mil­lions of dol­lars given by FIFA to ANFA gone? It was re­ported in the me­dia that Ganesh Thapa, the im­me­di­ate past pres­i­dent of ANFA had taken a whop­ping 200 thou­sand dol­lars from an of­fi­cial of the Asian Foot­bal Con­fed­er­a­tion (AFC), that also in the name of his son. Ganesh Thapa gave a fee­ble ex­cuse that this was just “a loan”. Who gives loans to strangers, that also amount­ing to 200 thou­sand US dol­lars with­out any col­lat­eral? Thapa and his co­terie off of­fi­cials in ANFA en­joyed lav­ish life­styles and they trav­elled here and there get­ting at­trac­tive perks in US dol­lars. By the way, Ganesh Thapa suc­ceeded his brother Ka­mal Thapa as pres­i­dent of ANFA The two broth­ers en­joyed the top post of ANFA from the late Sev­en­ties till very re­cently when Ganesh was en­meshed in the money scan­dal and banned from all foot­ball ac­tiv­i­ties for ten years. Again brother Ka­mal Thapa came to Ganesh Thapa's res­cue and he made him a mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, through the propo­tional sys­tem, per­haps try­ing to pro­tect him from any in­ter­na­tional pros­e­cu­tion. In spite of much money flow­ing into ANFA, for­get do­ing well in in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment or even re­gional tour­na­ments, Nepal has suf­fered de­feats and also suf­fered. A tiny is­land na­tion like Mal­dives where foot­ball was played only from the Eight­ies and there is hardly much room to have a foot­ball field has done much bet­ter. Just last week, Nepal lost to In­dia, but this un­der­stand­able as In­dia has a very strong base in the game and it has a huge pop­u­la­tion to choose play­ers. It can be hoped that the new lot of of­fi­cials in ANFA, do not only travel abroad and en­joy perks but al hold reg­u­lar tour­na­ments, not only in Kath­mandu but in all parts of the coun­try to en­cour­age play­ers and groom ta­lent for the bet­ter­ment of the game.

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