Nepal national team participated in two major tournament in last five weeks in different age groups. Nepal U16 team took part in AFC U17 tournament while Nepal U23 took part in Asian Games.
As predicted U23 team returned neither with a point, goal nor a clean sheet while Nepal U17 demonstrated we can expect more from them in the future. But at the same time uncertainty and turmoil in domestic football as well as dismal performance of national team alongside the high performing cricketers of Nepal means young Nepalese are more bound to incline towards the bat and ball.
Healthy roots leads to healthy fruits
Every national team's success is measured in terms of its domestic format of growing players. For example Spain won the World Cup due to its best domestic league format similarly new champions Germany. Liga BBVA and Bundesliga are its examples while Argentine Primera Division and Campeonato Brasileiro are responsible for growing players like Di Maria and Neymar respectively.
If we come back to our domestic scene, everything seems out of pace and out of place.
After many months, we finally got domestic competition in which only eight teams participated. Not only that but two teams were out of the A Division. And ironically Jhapa XI won the title 4-0 on a final. If you were watching the final match, you could see it was so poor that even watching that match for free was a suffering. ANFA has upgraded the stadium slightly but we do not go to seat comfortably at the stadium but to watch a competitive fixture. Both Sankata and Jhapa XI ran out of steam after 60th minutes. Jhapa XI could have score at least 8 times past Sankata who were 10 men after first half. Hate to say it but Nepalese players cannot play effectively past an hour. It was lacklustre performance from both sides. So who to blame?
Lack of Organised sports
Nepalese sports is following the footsteps of politics of very unfortunate country. The players are just playing to participate and there has not being seen any competitive nature. ANFA is responsible for organising the domestic competitions in the country but it has been unable to deliver it. Last month it organised ANFA cup but it was not as successful only highlighted by big prize money.
Owing to the lack of organised sports, there aren't enough sponsorship in the tournament and clubs are suffering due to it. Football clubs survive mostly from match day ticket sales, advertisings and merchandising.
Nepalese football is still light year away from club merchandising so they are dependent on only the ticket sales and advertising. But inconsistent schedule and only few months of football a year means sponsors are not convinced to invest on the club. Similarly, clubs cannot pay well to the players. And in this unpredictable and high-risk sport where there is no security, many players have emigrated abroad for work. Due to this, the quality of the domestic football has become less competitive and unproductive. Which is now been reflected on the international matches.
Football like many sports, fans adhere the players. Fans like to celebrate the players. Many fans follow the teams just because a specific player is playing for that team. Nepalese fans are no different. Nepalese players are known to score many goals in the domestic league but when they feature in National kits, they become silent.
This has led to criticism against many players in the national team. Even in many occasions in South Asian football, defenders have come on to the rescue of the team. But this time around in Incheon, the whole team failed and conceded 13 goals in 3 matches. While Nepal U17 also conceded six goals but they replied four in answer. This means future looks hopeful still both teams failed to maintain a clean sheet, which is of a concern.
Even Nepal U17's win and draw came from a penalties and this is way of playing dangerously.
Why domestic format is important?
After failings of both sides it would be unrealistic to think. of Nepal playing at the World Cup very soon let alone be the Asian Cup. But it gave the realisation that we got bright young players whom could grow into a strong senior side if given great care and right environment which would be an organised competitive domestic format.
The current format has failed the U23 team and failed the whole Nepalese football fans. Without it, there would not be enough fans at the stadium and unfortunately Nepalese fans have to turn to cricket where national team is performing brilliantly.
Stars of tomorrow
There is no scepticism that Nepal U17 players are the stars of tomorrow. Soon different clubs both domestic and abroad would sign them. Few players are already playing or on trial at ASEAN and Europe. But a team is formed of 23 players not few players. To build a team, the Olympic committee and ANFA have to create an environment from where players can guarantee their livelihood as well as the clubs who can them bring in international players to level up the domestic football.
Otherwise, the U17 players might repeat the same result as the U23 side of now when they reach then.