The ongoing AFC Under -23 qualifiers in Tehran, Iran is turning out to be a fiasco for Nepal. Two successive defeats at the hands of Iran and Afghanistan have badly exposed Nepali football at the competition.
With two matches to go against formidable Saudi Arabia and Palestine, I have no hesitation to say that the team is staring at a crippling humiliation. Going by Nepal’s performance so far, it has been a tale of absolute mediocrity. Players have looked match unfit, uninspiring, tired and out of sorts. Clearly, they lack physical strength and power to cope with the physically and technically more dominant oppositions.
Nepal’s opener against superior Iran was totally one–sided. As the 5-0 score suggests, they were completely overwhelmed, outplayed for 90 minutes. The physical dominance, tactical superiority, coupled with pace, sharp precision passing and running of the opposition just proved too hot to handle for Nepal. Emerging custodian Kuthu was at his best, making a dozen outstanding saves. Had it not been his brilliance, it would have been a lot worse for Nepal in terms of score line.
Coach Jack Stefanowski had a defeatist attitude and conceded defeat even before the kick off. It seemingly had psychological impact on the team’s performance, overall. No doubt, the defeat was pretty much a foregone conclusion but no one really expected them to perform so abysmally.
In the second game, Nepal had a chance of redemption against Afghanistan. They needed a vastly improved performance and had to overcome sloppiness and lethargy. After a reasonable first-half, the team lost whatever little momentum they had in the last 20-minute of the game, ultimately turning hope into humiliation.
The defense ran out of gas and caved in under pressure. The offensive line made little headway with a few sporadic attacks, posing no real threat. Once again, the Afghans physically dominated play and took control of the proceedings for the most part. They appeared to be a better team in every department of the game, by and large. The 2-0 at the hands of Afghanistan speaks volumes of the rapidly declining standards of Nepali football. The biggest barrier to future progress in Nepali football is Ganesh Thapa led ANFA. While Afghanistan football grows and prospers, Nepal continues to lag far behind international benchmark.
Look at Afghanistan. The kind of progress made by the war–ravaged country (with physical infrastructure barely in existence) in football over the last few years is something to marvel at. Their success at the 2013 South Asian Federation Football Championship in Kathmandu at the expense of India is a testament to their sustained success. Furthermore, the launch of Afghan Premier League (APL) in 2012 has become the most important, effective tool in the promotion, development of the game from the grassroots up to the national level. Only in its fourth year, APL is already a huge success in terms of raising the playing standards of the national team, viewership and luring sponsorship. More importantly, the Afghan Football Federation (AFF) has played a key role in the steady growth of football in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, leave alone good governance, all Mr.Thapa and his stooges have done is, destroy football, causing a lot of sufferings, among the country’s footballing masses. The poor showing by Nepal in the ongoing competition in Iran is another painful reminder of how Mr.Thapa’s leadership has failed a nation that could be so much better in football.