Life is gradually limping back to normalcy in Nepal, following the powerful earthquake that caused unprecedented loss of life and property. Like any sector, sport also bore the brunt of the natural calamity. Apart from the destruction of infrastructure, the killer quake took precious lives of a dozen or so promising young athletes, a coach and a journalist. They will be deeply missed but will remain in our hearts forever.
As they say in the business, the show must go on, despite all odds. I know we are going though very hard times in the wake of the national tragedy of immense proportions, but we must continue moving forward. Almost two months after the massive quake, the sporting sector struggles to return to business as usual. Speaking of football, we have witnessed a whole host of footballing activities, especially outside of Kathmandu Valley. Local and regional tournaments have been organized across the country, one after another. Every tourney has been a success, drawing large enthusiastic crowds. Players have braved the scorching temperatures and striven to give their very best efforts.
Football goers’ enthusiasm for the world’s most popular game remains strong as ever. Their support for the tournaments is yet to wane. However, the biggest irony is that Nepal football is stuck in limbo. The men’s national team continues free fall in FIFA rankings. In the present context, there is no hope for an end to our 21-year regional championship drought. At 159, minnows Bhutan has frog-leaped Nepal ranked 183. Nepal football arguably is at its lowest ebb since Ganesh Thapa took over All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) more than two decades ago.
Since then, things have gone from bad to worse. Nepal football remains lifeless and has lost direction and purpose. Players’ morale is rock bottom. Just like his boss Sepp Blatter, Mr.Thapa has transformed ANFA into a rampant corrupt organization at the expense of Nepal football. Hence, it should come as no surprise that football development has been stymied by poor infrastructure, failed leadership, mismanagement, bureaucracy and widespread corruption.
With the world football governing body still undecided about corrupt Mr.Thapa and the Save Nepal football group, showing no signs of backing down, there is more uncertainty than ever in Nepal football. Seven months have gone by but Mr. Thapa’s alleged corruption case is still pending at FIFA Ethics Committee. The ANFA Chief might have stayed away from the office; however, he controlled things behind the curtains, which is not surprising. Now that he is back in the saddle again, having served out the so-called seven-month suspension, it is back to square one.
The FIFA Ethics Committee is yet to release a report on Mr. Thapa’s corruption scandal but has shamelessly allowed him to return to administrative duties, thus making a mockery of its investigation. In fact, Mr.Thapa should have been barred from office until the FIFA Ethics Committee completed the review of his case and handed out its decision. His two hundred plus days absence from office makes no sense at all. Since he is under investigation, he obviously disqualifies from holding office. It is baffling and stunningly unfortunate that FIFA just wont remove Mr. Thapa who has done more bad than good for football. Forget not that he is the same person who has been running the show like a dictatorship. Do not be fooled into believing or thinking that he is going to change anything. We have seen enough of him to know him.
His problem is high-handedness, arrogance, incompetence, corruption and weak leadership. He has destroyed the credibility of himself, ANFA and the country, over the years. Further more, we have an irresponsible government that refuses to launch a full-scale investigation into financial wrongdoings involving Mr.Thapa. The matter of fact is that if we do not change the direction, Nepal football is headed further into the abyss.
FIFA is a doing a great disservice to Nepal football by rallying around Mr. Thapa, the most corrupt sport administrator Nepal has ever seen. All I can say is that long as corrupt, immoral administrator like Mr. Thapa is in charge; there is no hope for FIFA and AFC changing its ways.