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.