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A reform that changed Nepal’s football fate

While stories of football players living in relative penury or practicing their sport while occupying themselves with day jobs is not uncommon in the sub-continent,Nepal's players have never had it better.

Written by Siddhartha Sharma | New Delhi |
December 13, 2011 1:38:52 am

While stories of football players living in relative penury or practicing their sport while occupying themselves with day jobs is not uncommon in the sub-continent,Nepal’s players have never had it better.

Says Sagar Thapa,the skipper of the national side who was in India for the SAFF Championships: “We work on a salary system because we don’t have a support system that provides simultaneous employment. So we do not have job security,but I am happy with our salaries and we now face no problems. We lead comfortable lives and help our parents too,” says Thapa,who at 25 is the eldest member of his team.

Thapa,who also draws pay from his home club Himalayan Sherpas,compliments the ANFA (All Nepal Football Association) for bringing money into the sport to help it grow. “I earn ten times what I got paid four years back. The ANFA has worked hard in achieving this status which has helped in the mushrooming of new clubs,” he says.

The federation brought about a series of financial reforms in 2007,ensuring its players the security they were in search of.The move had a spin-off effect. With more money being pumped into the sport,the pool of players got bigger and better standard of football. Nepal,despite its humble beginnings are ranked 143 in the world,ahead of the likes of its more fancied neighbours like India (162).

“We started believing in football from 2007. The ANFA laid down the rules and improved the monetary structure. More players evinced keen interest in the sport and our league boomed with talent. Obviously when you have good players at the club level,the national side is bound to be a good bunch,” says Thapa,who has played 42 international games for his country.

Lalit Krishna Shreshtha,vice president and spokesperson of the ANFA explains how the intervention worked.

“When we took this decision to bring in more money,our football structure was very backward with only 12 clubs playing in the league. Now we have 18 clubs who are equally competitive. We have also decided to play with 16 clubs and relegate two clubs every year to the A division. This will balance the equation in the lower leagues. Money meant more and more players coming in and this lead to the creation of new clubs and now these clubs compete to have the best players playing for them for the prize money that comes with finishing high up the leagues,” he tells Sportline.

In fact Nepal,who lost their semifinal against Afghanistan,was promised an added annual bonus if they were to win the SAFF championships. “This is the difference between then and now. We can assure our players when it comes to money. Local sponsors come forward and spend money for the love of football.”

Now,football in Nepal is literally going places. “We would have never thought of organising training camps outside Kathmandu but now we train in Malaysia,Cambodia and Dubai,” concludes Shreshtha.

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