Nepali Football:

We just hit ROCK BOTTOM!

Pic courtesy: Pradipan Jung Thapa

“Game after game after game. I realize now what’s more important in my life. FOOTBALL! Show me something perfect than a perfect volley. Tell me you’ve never dreamed of a spectacular strike, that moment when the entire nation holds its breath. Tell me that football is not the common language, when the whole planet stops for the 90 minutes to that one thing all of us understand. YEAH! You can tell me I’m wrong, some may say it’s just a game. But this is about heroes and trumps, loyalty and devotion, it’s our commitment and passion, our battle and our belief, THIS is our faith. Now, hear the fever of the crowd, hear the roar of the people. The beautiful game, this is FOOTBALL.” The above lines are from a very famous video game called “FIFA 06”. So why did I quote it?

Let’s rewind some years and go back to the 90’s. From the early time Nepal has been a country who loves football. It’s not an alien sport as baseball, or hockey here in Nepal. The simplicity of the game has made it easier to understand. When I was growing up in the 90’s as a kid, I had this blur memory of my dad saying Mani Shah aka Maradona of Nepal has led Nepal to win the SAF championship”. Boy that still gives me Goosebumps. I even herd him saying “Nepal will go a very long way in football” that day. But look where we are now? Losing game after game and unable to score a single goal in the last 8–9 games. Nepal was shaken by the news that our beloved captain and a few of his men were caught for the allegations of MATCH FIXING. The poor performance was acceptable. We always thought we will bounce back. The goalless drought was acceptable (as we always play Santosh Sahukhala the goalless hero) we saw a ray of hope in Bimal Gharti Magar (BG10). So after all this and finishing almost at the very bottom of FIFA world football ranking 190, I always thought what else can be worse than this. But what followed was saddening.

As a football fanatic, I try not to miss Nepal’s international home fixture. As a player myself I was always taught to be loyal to the country, to my team mates and my followers. Playing for your country means to represent each and every citizen at the very top level. It’s sending a message straight about how good we are and how much love us Nepalese have for the beautiful game. But our captain and his men never thought the same.

To get into the national team you have to start from the very bottom, you have to push every limit to be the best and if you are good enough only then some day you will get to wear the red and white jersey with a flag of Nepal on the left side which means it’s near to the heart and you are playing for your nation from the bottom of your heart. When you walk into that field surrounded by 20,000 supporters you can see the belief in each and everyone’s eyes. There is a dream every single supporter has in that stadium of watching Nepal win when the full time whistle is blown. For most of the times we have been disappointed. But every time Nepal wins a game we rejoice and the faith is restored again. All the mistakes are forgiven and the moment is cherished.

After the players were arrested for match fixing, things are gonna be very different. The trust is no more in the team. I’m quite sad by the news of our captain Sagar Thapa (Sagar dai). COME ON MAN! You were supposed to lead us to victory. Look what you’ve done. You were the captain remember? You were the leader of not only those 11 men on the field but of all the 2 crore+ Nepalese in Nepal and around the world. How could you do that? How could you play with our emotions? When you choose to play football it was surely not about money right? So? Why now? Why this? And what hurts the most is you “lead” other to fix the games too? What can be worse that the captain guide his team to lose rather than pull their shirt up and shout at their face “play like you are playing for the dignity of Nepal”. Ritesh dai, you were such a good human being. You helped me when I was new to the sports journalism. You were one of my favorite players and I had a lot of respect for you. You let me down dai. You let us all down. You were supposed to be protecting the goal.

You guys had been doing this for the past 8 years? This means for the past 8 years we have been living a lie.A lie that our national team gives its 100% in every game, home or away. Can you imagine how would the Nepalese who lived abroad (the ones in the Arab countries) who had saved every single penny of their money just to watch their nation play? Yes! To watch you play! We all know how “good” ANFA is, but we always thought the players are of a clean character. For the past 8 years Nepali football has been going backwards. You sold our dignity and sovereignty for a few dollars more. SHAME ON YOU!

How will we ever come out of this now? The backbone of the team is missing, the GK, CB, M, and our ST have all been arrested. They ARE missing from the squad leaving behind a huge gap to fill. I consider Sagar Thapa as one of the good defenders I have ever seen and I always felt he is the only one who can captain the national squad currently.

But. Its all over now. Its official, Nepali football has hit ROCK BOTTOM. We don’t have our captain with us, we are missing the best and the most experienced players from the squad. Our FA is a joke and the new coach is always a puppet of you know who.

I personally will keep my hopes alive. Hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a new team, a team of winners ,better and loyal men, a team that will have only heroes. A team that can fight for every inch. A team that if goes a few goals down will have the courage and ability to make a historical come back. I want to see a team of character.

Until next time….