Football ancarchy exposed

Source: Himalayan News Service

KATHMANDU: Two matches to go and the Martyrs Memorial San Miguel A Division League is over: champions decided and two teams relegated. Football season is over. That is all what matters for the Nepali football governing body All Nepal Football Association (ANFA).

The national league only resumed this year after three years of infighting. The ailing Nepali football, which has not tasted a major international success since winning gold during the sixth SAF Games in 1993, is in the steep decline.

Time and again the infighting has further hampered the domestic football, the base for the development of the game. When both ANFA and the agitating Nepal Football Association/clubs finally decided to put aside their differences and continue with the football activities, it was the players who heaved a sigh of relief.

But what occurred in the league, especially in the later part, has embarrassed the fans and Nepali football in general. Club officials have openly spoken of fixing matches to ensure their stay in the upper division. Boys Union Club coach Kumar Katwal said during a post match conference after their 1-0 loss against Nepal Armed Police Force (APF) Club that his team had made a match-fixing attempt against G’Five Machhindra Football Club (MFC). “But they (MFC) demanded heavy amount and things did not work,” the coach had said then.

Although BUC, along with Sankata Kathmandu Mall Club, were relegated from the A Division the circumstances under which they were demoted came under severe criticism from several walks of life.

With Sankata already relegated, the survival battle centered between BUC and APF. With just one match left, APF and BUC were tied on 19 points meaning goal difference would have come into effect if both the teams were to win. But what followed prompted one Samsung Jawalakhel Youth Club (JYC) fan to express his embarrassment in a social network, saying, “I am ashamed to say I live in Jawalakhel. I will definitely switch my rented house elsewhere.” The fan was referring to the BUC’s unlikely 7-1 win over JYC. The big margin BUC victory meant APF now needed to beat Machhindra by at least six-goal margin, which not surprisingly, they did the very next day. APF won 8-0.

While all this was taking place, ANFA were just a mute spectator. Understandably, they could find it difficult to prove the foul play in those matches but what about the open statement made by APF and BUC officials on match-fixing ? Whenever ANFA faced direct or indirect government intervention to check the “so-called atrocities and monopolies” of the football governing body, it always came out clean on the pretext of “FIFA charter.”

National Sports Council or the government was always rendered helpless considering FIFA’s strict resentment over any political interference to one of their elected member associations. The government knew that meddling with FIFA charter meant risking the international ban, which they did not want to take blame on.

If ANFA were the adherer of rule of law and any such charters, will they probe and punish the culprits ? Does FIFA charter allow any team to openly plot match-fixing? If not, why keep mum and not act accordingly. But given the way ANFA functions, one can be certain that everyone will go unpunished considering the platform on which ANFA is build around.

After three years of football stalemate, ANFA gave in to numerous needless demands of the agitators not because they were right but because the football governing body was under tremendous pressure from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), and probably from FIFA, to hold domestic football. In the absence of domestic football, Nepal Police Club, who retained the league this season, represented in the AFC President’s Cup thrice.

Defying the regional and world football governing body meant risking annual development grants which had forced ANFA to compromise with the agitators’ demands in reluctance. Under such circumstance and with the clubs repeatedly threatening to pull out of the league, ANFA is very much likely to give the culprits a clean chit for all the foul plays. Even if they happen to punish the guilty, it would at worse be a paltry monetary fine.

At the end of the day, football as a whole will suffer more than an individual, club or the association. If such malpractices persist, Nepali football is certain to remain stagnant.

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