Right after the completion of the Sixth National Games in Far Western Region, Kathmandu is hosting the AFC Challenge Cup, the second biggest tournament of Asian football.
South Asian Army Sports Meet concluded on Wednesday in Kathmandu while Surya Nepal Masters, the biggest and only international golf event of the country, is ongoing at the Gokarna Forest Golf Resort. Nepali national cricket team has been in top form at the ICC World T20 Qualifiers in the UAE.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter visited Nepal last week. Political leaders are using anecdotes from sports to convey their political messages.
Parliamentarians are discussing sports issue for the first time after the State Affairs Committee asked Nepal Army and Ministry of Defense to furnish their clarification for pulling out two players of the army club from the national football squad without informing the team management.
National Sports Council (NSC) announced last week a training program called ‘Mission SAG’ for the athletes of some sports and NSC decided to call gold and silver medalists of the Sixth National Games to a training that will begin in a month.
On the surface, the country seems to be turning sporty suddenly and it looks as if it is a boom time for sports.
However, sports analyst, athletes and technical manpower in sports are not optimistic. Nonetheless, they think it’s right time to take a step toward sustainable development of the sports sector.
Around 3600 athletes participated in the Sixth National Games. They were all champions of their regions and departments. Altogether 1091 medals were decided. Besides the medalists, many emerging talents were noticed.
Athletes Shakuntala Thakulla, Nirmala Khatri and volleyball player Shalina Shrestha are a few examples.
National games are platforms for recognizing champions and identifying new talents. The Sixth National Games also recognized champions and identified talents.
So, what next? Barring a handful of professional athletes, what program does NSC have to further groom the emerging talents?
In the AFC Challenge Cup, Nepal crashed out of the tournament losing all three group stage matches. During the tournament Nepal failed to score even a single goal. FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who watched the match between Nepal and Palestine on the opening day of the tournament, gave a compliment that Nepal played like Barcelona but lacked Messi to score.
Many can took it as a great compliment but those who are aware of the way Barcelona groomed Messi through their youth training facilities called La Mesia, just laughed at it.
The question that arises here is that are the football clubs in Nepal ready to run ‘La Mesia’ to develop our own Messis? All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) is running an academy for nurturing young footballers. But has it been able to provide proper environment and facilities to encourage young footballers?
Everyone accepted that Nepali team lacked sharp strikers. So what is ANFA doing to seek talents who can score? More importantly, did ANFA sit with the coach Graham Roberts to analyze the matches and find out what went wrong?
Golf could help promote sports tourism in the country. Altogether 85 foreign golfers are participating in the Surya Nepal Masters, an initiative of Surya Nepal Pvt Ltd and Nepal Professional Golfers Association (NPGA).
What plans do Nepal Tourism Board and National Sports Council have to develop the game? Does there exist even some sort of coordination between them?
Every question raised above has a negative answer, a big NO.
“We need programs to nurture emerging talents if we want sustainable development of any sports,” said Sushil Nar Singh Rana, chief coach of athletics. “However, National Sports Council and other sports associations lack such programs,” he added.
According to Rana, even the athletes who were not supervised by any coach claimed medals in the Sixth National Games. “We saw some sheer talents, they were raw. They need to be groomed,” said Rana.
“NSC and associations must think about deploying coaches in pocket areas to develop respective games. Then, it will be easier to polish raw talents,” he added.
Sports analyst and psychologist Ramesh Khanal stressed that Nepali sports authorities often lack creativity. “We should develop mechanisms to tap inborn talents,” said Khanal. “We need long term training plans,” he added.
Despite praising ANFA for its various initiatives, Khanal said that ANFA also lacks programs for hunting talents. “Sports authorities rarely analyze things after the completion of events.
I don’t think, ANFA has analyzed the weaknesses of its team after crashing out of the AFC Challenge Cup,” said Khanal. “How could you set your future course without analyzing the current failures?” he asked.
Where are the authorities getting busy?
If Khanal, who served National Sports Council for decades, is to be believed, Nepal Olympic Committee is a wrestling ring for Nepali sports authorities while NSC is turning into a platform for fulfilling pity political and personal agendas by mobilizing youths.
There are two Nepal Olympic Committees, one recognized by International Olympic Committee and the other restored by the verdict of Supreme Court. There are two national associations each for gymnastics, kabaddi, boxing, athletics, karate and taekwondo.
“There is glamour in sports. You can mobilize youths. If you have international connections you can enjoy power and money,” said Khanal. “This is why most people serving in different sports authorities stick to their posts for lifetime,” he added.
Why is all this going on?
Again if Khanal is to be believed, the interest of political parties to project their cadres through sports and greed of enjoying posts for lifetime in sports leader has been ruining Nepali sports.
“I haven’t heard about Republican or Democrat Sports Association in the US. I haven’t seen Congress-I Sports Association or BJP Sports Association in India. However, we have sports organizations of each political party in Nepal. These associations politicize sports,” said Khanal.
Is there any hope?
Taekwondo ace Deepak Bista thinks it is right time for the leading figures in the sporting scene to make the most out of the current environment for the benefit of the sports sector.
“As the country is going through different kind of crisis, sports sector is giving hope to people. Political leaders are talking about sports and sports events are getting first-page coverage in media. This is the best time to cash in,” said Bista.
However, Khanal has doubts over the ability of political leadership and sports leaders.
“The scenario is good for the development of sports but to make the most of this opportunity both political and sports leaders should put aside their personal agendas and keep only sports on the priority,” said Khanal.
On the other hand, Bista seemed more willing to give a benefit of doubt to both political and sports leadership. “I have never seen such favorable environment to develop sports before and I’m hopeful sports leadership will be able to cash this environment,” said Bista.