All Nepal Football Association’s woes keep growing by the day. Mr. Ganesh Thapa led football body is currently mired in controversies galore. Do not get too taken aback should ANFA face more controversies and scandals in the coming days. The decision by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to fine ANFA $2000 for fielding overage players in the AFC U-16 tournament held in Thailand not too long ago is another huge setback to Nepal football.
This obviously is national embarrassment. I am very disappointed but not surprised given the total apathy of ANFA’ s leadership and incompetence. This is a sheer case of pure neglect and irresponsibility on part of the football body. The latest scandal has only added fuel to the fire and further tainted the image of ANFA, which is already dogged by corruption, mismanagement and uncertainty.
To be fair, the fielding of overage players in age –group tournaments is not only restricted to Nepal but is wide spread internationally. Over the years, age fraud has become rampant, especially in Asia and Africa. As a consequence, age-group tournaments are running the risk of being insignificant to the overall development of football. It would be very foolish and wrong for ANFA to take comfort in the fact that they are not only the guilty party. They must overcome the notion that, if others can do it, why cannot we!
There can be no excuse for deliberately fielding overage players. One question is who is responsible? Of course, the onus falls on the football body. The wise men at ANFA along with coaches should be aware of their responsibilities and must adhere strictly to the rules no matter what. They have an obligation to ensure that overage players are not fielded. These people are either too ignorant or stupid to turn a blind eye to the statute that is on the book. The deliberate use of overage players by football associations directly violates AFC and FIFA statutes. Understandably the pressure on the team for success also encourages selectors to field overage players.
In light of the situation, the Asian and the world football governing bodies have taken stringent measures to crack down on overage players. AFC introduced age detection methods in the age- group competitions in 2000. They started with the bone X-ray technology and now it is Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to determine the actual age of a player. Despite dire warnings of the consequences, some football associations still continue to field overage players. Ironically, it is not uncommon for parents to distort the actual birth dates of their children while registering, for various reasons in our part of the world.
It maybe recalled that at the 2000 Asian Youth Under-16 Championship held in Danang, Vietnam, sixteen players from Iran, Oman, Thailand and Bangladesh were found to have fielded overage players after X-ray tests. The players caught age cheating got barred from international tournaments for two years, and the teams involved faced disqualification from the 2002 edition of the competition, as well.
Nepal has been through this before and faced AFC punishment. ANFA is guilty of repeating the same mistake again. Just to refresh your memory, Nepal who refused to allow its players tested at the 2000 Asian Youth Under-16 in Vietnam also was disqualified from the 2002 Asian Youth Under-16 Championship. In addition, ANFA was fined a whopping $ 10,000 and had its team manger suspended. Will ANFA ever learn from its mistakes? I pretty much doubt it. The truth of the matter is that they don’t give a damn. They are so drunk with power that they believe they can say and do what they want.
Then we have FIFA that is reluctant to terminate President of ANFA Ganesh Thapa despite allegations of corruption domestically and as well as at international level. To further exacerbate the situation, our own toothless government has turned into a mere bystander, doing nothing about it. For the last twenty plus years footballers across the country have unfairly been held hostage to ANFA’s failed policies. This is nothing but a power grab by Mr.Thapa and his cronies. Nothing will change while these people are still in charge.