Unholy nexus between corrupt officials and FIFA threatening Nepal Football future

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Nepal football
Ganesh Thapa with Mohamed Bin Hammam
After much suspense and drama, President of All Nepal Football Association, Mr. Ganesh Thapa was finally forced out of office for two months while authorities investigate him for possible embezzlement of funds and abuse of office powers.

Now the big question: what’s next? What happens in the next two months? There are so many unanswered questions. First and foremost, has the government initiated the investigation?

No one really knows for sure. I have not heard the government making an official announcement in regards to launching an investigation against Mr. Thapa. Indeed, the public has the right to information. Honestly speaking, the picture remains as murky as ever. The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), the government anti-graft agency is suppose to start a full-scale investigation. That has not happened yet.

There are clear grounds for an investigation against Mr. Thapa. Keep in mind; he has been temporarily debarred from exercising the powers and discharging the duties of his office for a period of two months based on Public Accounts Committee’s findings. He will be back on the saddle after serving his two months suspension, unless the government decides to push ahead with the case and extend the period of suspension. Otherwise, the suspension would make no sense and turn out to be more of a gimmick than anything. Don’t be surprised if this happens!

President of All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) Mr. Ganesh Thapa had/has maintained his innocence all along and vowed to fight the alleged corruption charges against him. Ever since the corruption scandal surfaced and gained grounds, the beleaguered ANFA Chief has gone on the offensive, saying that critics and opponents have lied and falsely, wrongfully accused him of wrongdoings. We have heard him shamelessly, stubbornly and passionately defend himself about his innocence dime-a-dozen-times. As we now know, Mr. Thapa is good at lying and apparently had been lying through his teeth for the most part.

I wonder what Mr. Thapa and his band of loyal supporters have to say about the latest revelation made by none other than the world football governing body about the misappropriation of ANFA funds? FIFA confirmed that international auditors KPMG audited ANFA, working in partnership with football’s governing body, and the findings concluded that there were illegal cash movements. As a result, in 2012 and 2013 ANFA was subjected to forensic audit, followed by Ethics committee’s investigation. Furthermore, only this year we learn that specific support was given by FIFA and KPMG as part of the so-called “Performance Programme” to improve the financial management and governance of ANFA. What a joke? It is absurd and ridiculous to hear the football governing body say that ANFA is implementing the corrective measures recommended by FIFA and KPMG.

Obviously, FIFA seems sympathetic and supportive to Mr.Thapa. I strongly believe they have a vested interest in keeping him on as long as they want and can. Or else they would have shown him the exit by now. This is nothing but a very unfortunate cover up by FIFA to protect a discredited person like Mr. Thapa who is enmeshed in corruption and bribery.

Why does FIFA knowingly ignore the fact that Mr. Thapa is part of the problem, not the solution? They are doing Nepal football a bigger disservice by supporting the ANFA boss who considers ANFA as his personal fiefdom.

I am of the opinion that FIFA’s Ethics Committee has made itself a laughing stock. But the big irony is that like apples and cherries, the world football governing body gets to pick and choose when it comes to suspending or banning Football Associations’ Presidents for similar ethic violations (soliciting and accepting bribes). The shocking and explosive revelation was made by FIFA only after ‘Reuters’, the international news agency, drew their attention to the corruption scandal revolving around Mr. Thapa.

The “Save Nepal Football” group consisting of present and former ANFA officials, national players and coaches deserve full credit for calling national and international attention to the crisis facing Nepal football.

Even more disturbingly, Mr.Thapa and his cronies kept FIFA’s investigation of ANFA under wraps. Despite everything, Mr.Thapa appears unaffected by the recent turn of events. In all likelihood, FIFA has already assured him of their full support in exchange for ANFA’s support to FIFA boss Sepp Blatter in the upcoming FIFA presidential elections. Evidently FIFA’s assurance keeps Mr. Thapa afloat and going.

FIFA’s move to suspend Mr. Thapa from office for a period of four months came as a mild surprise. They need to do more than just the temporary suspension in order to put Nepal football on the right path. The “Save Nepal Football” spearheaded by ANFA Vice-Presidents Mr. Karma Tsering Sherpa and Bijay Nararyan Manandhar have rightly requested FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke and Ethics Committee Chief Michael Garcia copies of the reports and audits. They were kept in the dark about the investigation, and as ANFA vice-presidents they have the right to be given all the information they need in order to know about the shoddy business practices that took place within the ANFA. Also it would become a key piece of evidence to support the corruption charges against Mr.Thapa.

On the domestic front, Mr. Thapa has less than two months time to work out an exit strategy out of the current crisis that is threatening to sink his over two decades of ANFA Presidency. Whether FIFA rallies around Mr.Thapa or not, the government must not shy away from its duties. It is the duty of the government to carry out the investigation and prosecute perpetrators (if found guilty) like Mr. Thapa and his associates suspected of corruption, embezzlement of funds and abuse of power.

What’s the worst-case scenario? FIFA can suspend Nepal from all international football due to government interference in its football association. It maybe recalled that in the year 2000, FIFA refrained from suspending Nepal from international football; despite formation of a parallel football association headed by Mrs.Geeta Rana to counter Mr. Ganesh Thapa led ANFA (recognized by FIFA).

Let us just hope that good sense prevails, and FIFA will not act against the best interests of the Nepali football fraternity. Otherwise, it could spell further disaster for Nepal football that has long suffered under Mr.Thapa’s leadership.

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