I have never played in club-level football tourneys but I have been familiar with Nepalese football since my childhood. The passion is still there. I still play futsal with my old friends now and then. As I was growing up, I used to go to Dashrath Stadium to watch games. Those days were something else. Stadium used to be full of spectators back then. I still remember some unforgettable moments of Nepalese football. You can also pick your spot inside one of the greatest stadiums ever built, just buy Manchester United tickets allowing you to see your most anticipated fixture or multiple matches at Old Trafford.
I still remember Mani Shah scoring a goal at the last moment and winning when the spectators were leaving the stadium. Lufthansa, a team from Germany gave us some European flavor to the game. Chinese youth team which was preparing for the upcoming FIFA world cup showed some of their flavors. The most memorable moment as the Football tournament of South Asian games 1999. As a huge fan of Nepalese football, I made a big 12 feet long Nepalese flag. The first game was played between Nepal vs Bhutan. It was an unforgettable match. Nepal scored seven goals. Most probably it was the highest from Nepalese team and Nepalese captain Mr. Deepak Amatya’s free-kick was awesome. I remember the era when Friends Club, our local heroes won the coco-cola Cup.
Before learning to play football, I remember two incidents about football. The first one was my father taking me and my brother to Dashrath stadium to watch our club Friends club playing. The second incident was we used to own a shop and during those days our club was quite popular. In that particular era, they had won few tournaments. All the players used to visit our shop (which was in the Friends Club building) to have some cold drinks. I heard about Mr. Ganesh Thapa’s name a lot on the radio (Radio Nepal used to broadcast commentary live in that era), so I asked my dad who is Ganesh Thapa? Surprisingly he was standing right in front of me. He looked at me and said I am Ganesh Thapa with a smile on his face.
Those are some memories of football from the past. After completion of my high school, I got time to play regular football and used to go to practice with some of the finest players of Nepal, like Sukra Tamang, Sushil KC, and Sujeet KC. They were all locals from Kupundole who used to play for Friends Club. They even made it to the national squad. Once I gave my best shot to play in B division but due to some reason, I wasn’t selected by the management. One of our former National player Raju Tamang debuted in B division from our club at that time.
Those incidents build more passion for football within me. I always wanted to see progress in Nepalese football as a big fan. Listening to the players, I felt like ANFA is not directed by the right person for the development of football. When Mr. Ganesh Thapa became the president I felt like he can bring some changes in ANFA so that Nepalese football will grow under his presidency. It was very odd to see that Geeta Rana a school owner opposed Mr. Thapa for the presidency. I still couldn’t comprehend how and why a school principal wanted to become the president of ANFA. I still believe that was the darkest side of Nepalese football.
The aftermath of the tussle between Ganesh Thapa and Geeta Rana, Mr. Thapa was able to retain in the post. He didn’t do much even though he got many chances to improve. FIFA ran a goal project to develop youth football in Nepal. Football Academies were built but never got the result at the international level. They produced some players but couldn’t retain them. Many flew abroad for a brighter future ( and the money ANFA put on their development was like water on the sand ). Later, Mr. Thapa, my childhood idol was involved in many controversies and scandals. Football lovers started raising voice against him for abuse of power and financial mismanagement. Finally, he was charged with corruption by the international football governing body, FIFA. He was fined a huge amount of money and slammed ten years ban from any kind of football activity.
I still remember meeting our Ex- national captain Mr. Deepak Amatya in the United States. As a football lover, it was a proud moment to meet him personally. In our friendly conversation, he told me that, “It is okay you didn’t get to play in B division, otherwise you wouldn’t have come to the United States for your education which is more important. “
At the same time, my good friend Mr. Sukra Tamang did not return while he participated in Asian Games, South Korea. I had a talk with Deepak Amatya about that incident. He was very much aware of Sukra’s family and his situations back home. He told me that sometimes it is okay to think about yourself. The country (Nepal) has nothing to offer. That’s very unfortunate for players who are dedicated and puts their heart and soul in sports. At least he can earn something for his family, which is more important in life when it comes to bread and butter on your table.
I had so many questions going in my mind but partially got my answer, why Nepalese player overstay when they go to play in developed countries. Not just in football, the fact of the matter is many other national players overstay in various games on a regular basis.
To be continued …… ANFA, Clubs and matchfixing