Nepali Times Asian Paints
Sports
Africans get their kicks


MANOJ GHIMIRE



ANANDA KOIRALA

AUC in Dharan.
Be it the Martyrs' Memorial League in Kathmandu or big football tournaments outside the valley, African footballers ruled Nepali grounds wherever they played last year. They even raised doubts about the skills of Nepal's national team, holding it to a draw in a friendly match when the team was preparing for the AFC Challenge Cup.

After the African players assembled their own team, African United Club (AUC) and won the Aaha Gold Cup in Pokhara and the Budha Subba Gold Cup in Dharan, football fans around the country started asking where these amazing footballers came from and how they ended up dominating our home grounds.

Initially, 28 Africans suited up for clubs in the A-Division National Football League this year. Some of them played a major role in taking Manang Marshyangdi Club (MMC) to the top while others prevented lower clubs from being relegated.

It was through Sijuwoke, a Nigerian living in Ekantakuna, that players like Jude and Abdul Dhani joined Jawalakhel Club, Omaag Bemori Junior found a home at Brigade Boys, Henary Ituk joined Three Star Club and Felix played for MMC. National team coach Shyam Thapa brought in three more African players for Boys Union during league play while MMC did its player shopping by surfing websites.

They all got different deals. MMC paid its five African players a monthly salary of $ 250 while Boys Union gave them IRs 5,000 for each game. The Immigration Department gave the players one-year non-tourist visas after a joint recommendation from the National Sports Council and the Ministry of Education. During the league, their respective clubs paid a monthly visa fee of $ 60 per player.

Not all the Africans are footballers and their motives for coming to Nepal are unclear. According to some observers, it doesn't make much sense for them to be playing professional football in a poor country like Nepal. Jude, who plays for Jawalakhel Club, says he came to Nepal en route to playing league games in India and Bangladesh. But he's staying in Nepal even after the league has kicked off in those countries. However, Nepal's sports officials have been trying to find a place for those players on the national team, ignoring the game's minimum international standards.

Many sports officials don't think it's fair that the Africans are playing Nepali football. According to Lalit Krishna Shrestha, spokesman of ANFA (the All Nepal Football Association), "it's an immature decision to let them play without an international contract letter." ANFA requires that players and their teams be registered before they can play in Nepal.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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