The long wait is over! Justice has been served in the corruption scandal involving former president of All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) – Ganesh Thapa. Finally, the world football governing body (FIFA) did the right thing – punish Mr. Thapa for his purported headline grabbing wrongdoings as chief of the football body for more than two decades.
Mr. Thapa has been suspended for 10 years from all football related activities and fined 20,000 Swiss Franc, putting an end to his dictatorial and despotic rule. The FIFA ruling must have came as a great surprise to Mr. Thapa, leaving him shattered, speechless and badly jolted. He is lucky to have escaped jail time. I reckon, never in his wildest imagination did he think this could happen. He faced a laundry list of charges ranging from corruption to bribery and made a desperate and futile attempt to clear his name till the end.
Extensive media coverage, but what were they doing before?
Not surprisingly, Mr.Thapa’s ouster received overwhelming press coverage. Had the press displayed similar responsibility, aggression, enthusiasm and vigor in their reporting about him while he was in office, things would not have gotten so bad. In retrospect, given Mr. Thapa’s status, connection, influence, he had ample time to make valuable contributions by bringing real, meaningful reform to Nepal football but he never did that. Instead, he chose to continue his wrong doings and worked to consolidate his position and power, both nationally and internationally. In the process, he literally converted ANFA into a fiefdom of his very own, packing it with his sycophantic cronies in key positions. He used the same tactics to solidify his position in District Football Associations (DFA) across the country, thus ensuring his electoral success for two decades.
Birds of same feather flock together
Mr. Thapa became a close confidant of the disgraced former AFC President Mohammed Bin Hammam, which ultimately made him one of the most powerful figures in AFC. After the fall of Mr. Hammam, to save his skin, he hastily switched his loyalty to suspended FIFA boss Sepp Blatter. No wonder Mr. Thapa ruled with an iron hand and became so obsessed and drunk with power, that he believed he could do anything and no one could stop him from doing what he wanted. On the home turf, he combined intrigue, threats, intimidation, influence and favors to silence his critics, including journalists and mainstream media. In addition, he had the ability to put the so-called leaders of the political party in power in his pocket, and they were too dumb and stupid to fall into his trap. These dumb politicians should hang their head in shame.
Despite allegations of rampant corruption, maladministration and abuse of power, the government remained/remains a silent spectator, allowing him to go scot-free. A 2012 audit by PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) found that Gaurav Thapa, son of Mr. Thapa had received $ 100,000 from Mr. Hammam. Likewise, in 2012 the international auditors KPMG working in compliance with FIFA’s Audit & Compliance Committee conducted a series of financial audits into potential financial irregularities at ANFA and identified inappropriate cash movements. While our irresponsible media slept behind the wheels for the most part, international media outlets like ‘The Sunday Times’, ‘Associated Press’, ‘Reuters’ and many more extensively reported about Mr. Thapa, exposing his corrupt ways. The investigative reporting done by ‘Reuters’, into how ANFA spent the money received from FIFA under the goal program, was the final nail in his coffin.
Ganesh Thapa’s huge influence in Nepal
In the eyes of our government, none of that mattered. They had/have absolutely no interest whatsoever in the matter, thus making a mockery of the legal system. In the end, Mr. Thapa dug his own grave. He is a victim of his own actions and has no one to blame but himself. FIFA has done, what our toothless, coward government, which includes sports ministry, national sports council, Nepal olympic committee and commission, for the Investigation of Abuse of the Authority (CIAA) failed to do so.
As I had said all along, only FIFA has power to end Mr. Thapa’s presidency. His removal from office is a slap on our government that refuses to investigate him. Furthermore, CIAA has gone so far as to disregard the Parliamentary Public Account (PAC) order to investigate Mr. Thapa. It appears though CIAA has stalled the case at the behest of none other than Chief of CIAA Lok Man Singh Karki, who is accused of playing a shameful and disgusting game .
No one is above the law. Since FIFA has found Mr. Thapa guilty of corruption and bribery, our government must act now and direct CIAA to investigate him without undue delay. No lawbreaker should be immune to the law if proven guilty. The Nepali people have a right to know about the money ANFA received in millions from FIFA , AFC, government, sponsors and other avenues over the last twenty years under Mr. Thapa’s leadership. The financial records must be made available to the public. CIAA is obligated to leave no stone unturned to find if the money was misused, mismanaged and wasted. The anti-graft agency cannot ignore to look into ANFA’s banking. It is reported that the football body has accounts at multiple banks. Mr. Thapa’s inner coteries, including his son Gaurav Thapa, are important part of this investigation. The police must look into Mr. Thapa and his son‘s supposed links to the recent match- fixing scandal, as well.
Had it not been the unfolding of FIFA corruption scandal, push by the agitating ANFA officials and excellent international media reporting, probably, Mr. Thapa’s downfall would not have been possible. In addition, the recent match-fixing scandal and age fraud incident further dealt a blow to Mr. Thapa‘s leadership. ANFA is still at the hands of Mr. Thapa’s loyalists, which makes no sense to me. They have lost the moral authority to govern. We need an ad hoc committee to handle the crisis immediately. Without the necessary change, not much will change for Nepal football, as Ganesh Thapa’s influence will be there.