Nepali Times
Sports
Bend it like Sagar


AVASH BHANDARI


The only way to remember 2011 for Nepali football and cricket would be to describe it as "action packed". For years, power struggle between ANFA, National Sports Council and elites of Nepali sporting fraternity kept domestic football leagues on the sidelines. Nepal performed poorly in international matches: it failed miserably in the SAFF Championship and AFC Challenge Cup finals in 2008.

Surprisingly, in 2011 rancour was replaced by resurgence. Not only did Nepal become the highest ranked team in South Asia, it qualified for the finals of AFC Challenge Cup, and reached the semifinals of SAFF Championship in Delhi in November.

Mid-way through the year, the national team had become a formidable force under the guidance of its new coach, Graham Roberts. When Nepal crushed East Timor 7-1 in the first round of the FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifiers in July, some overtly optimistic supporters even started dreaming about Nepal going to Rio. However, our hopes were shattered by Jordan with a 9-0 humbling in Amman.

Although Nepal failed to qualify, it showed promising signs. On the field, players demonstrated absolute confidence and off the field Roberts was becoming familiar with the team's strengths and weaknesses. Nepal's best performances came in December in Delhi. We dominated the first match against Maldives, but had to settle for a frustrating 1-1 draw. In the second match, Captain Sagar Thapa lit the competition with a scorching goal, deep into injury time against Bangladesh. Thapa's stunning free kick drew endless comparisons with Ronaldinho's legendary goal against England in the 2002 World Cup. Having worked its way into the semifinals after 12 years, the team's calibre was on full display against Afghanistan. Throughout the match Nepal controlled possession, and played breathtakingly. But it ran out of ideas and steam, and failed to score.¬ Afghanistan dealt a killer blow during extra time and sealed the game. After all the hype, expectations and promises it was again a case of 'dream deferred'. What happens in 2012 will be determined when Nepal plays the AFC Challenge Cup in front of a home crowd in March.

Meanwhile, cricket saw equal action on and off the field. With the Ministry of Youth and Sports under its control, the Maoists nominated their Central Committee member, Tanka Angbuhang, the head of a Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN). On the field, Nepal had a new Sri Lankan coach, Pubudu Dassanayake, who faced his first real test during ACC T20 in Kirtipur in December. The team succeeded in earning a place in the ICC World T20 qualifiers, however, like in football (and on the same day as the defeat in Delhi) Afghanistan prevented Nepal from advancing to the finals.


Ceremonial Olympics

Unlike the last two summer Olympics, Nepal failed to make its place in the quadrennial sporting spectacle through qualifiers. Sangina Vaidya and Dipak Bista represented Nepal as Taekwondo qualifiers in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. Therefore it won't be overtly pessimistic to expect Nepali athletes to return from London this summer after fulfilling token participation. Like previous competitions, however, national records are expected to be broken. Manita Shahi, Ayesha Shkaya, Rohit Tamang and Asish Maharjan failed to make it to London after losing in the Asian Taekwondo qualifiers in Bangkok. Earlier, the Taekwondo association failed to send them to the world qualifiers in Azerbaijan for 'financial reasons'. Boxing too suffered the similar fate in the qualifying rounds. The only hope for Taekwondo now is wildcard entry but the chances are bleak.

Meanwhile, the real game is the dispute within the National Olympic Committee and it wouldn't be surprising if there are more officials than athletes going to London.¬ Unlike the last two summer Olympics, Nepal failed to make its place in the quadrennial sporting spectacle through qualifiers. Sangina Vaidya and Dipak Bista represented Nepal as Taekwondo qualifiers in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. Therefore it won't be overtly pessimistic to expect Nepali athletes to return from London this summer after fulfilling token participation. Like previous competitions, however, national records are expected to be broken. Manita Shahi, Ayesha Shakya, Rohit Tamang and Asish Maharjan failed to make it to London after losing in the Asian Taekwondo qualifiers in Bangkok. Earlier, the Taekwondo association failed to send them to the world qualifiers in Azerbaijan for 'financial reasons'. Boxing too suffered a similar fate in the qualifying rounds. The only hope for Taekwondo now is a wildcard entry but the chances are bleak. Meanwhile, the real game is the dispute within the National Olympic Committee and it wouldn't be surprising if there are more officials than athletes going to London.¬



1. who cares
in football nepal has improved a great deal in terms of team performance and improved somewhat in long passing. in the past, most of the players would roam around the ball, lately this has changed. but our footballers still lack striking power (they still kick like some grand ma), accuracy, control over the ball, they still take a lot of time to clear the ball. if individual performance in striking power, accuracy, speed and quick release is improved, nepal can become a football powerhouse in south asia. after reaching so far in the tournament, losing to Afghanistan in the finals was truly disappointing!√ā¬

maoists are trying to doom cricket and are taking it from bad to worse. with the entry of maoists into nepali sports, whole group of incompetent people has entered into decision making positions.




2. mohan

The free kick was remarkable - I agree; but to tout Nepalese football as "resurgent" and impressive, I think otherwise. South Asia conference is the weakest in FIFA rankings as evidenced by lopsided defeats when South Asian countries play any others outside its conference (Jordan 9, Nepal 0).  For Nepal football to dominate South Asian conference, it has to aim higher. Nepal needs to practise with teams from Burma, Thialand, Vietnam etc - teams from SE Asia conference, which are far better. In order for Nepal football to raise its standard even higher, it needs to compete with teams from Midle East conference, such as Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia etc,  which are better than teams in South East. Then, it will be possible for Nepali football to put up a fight with teams from China, Japan, and South Korea ( South Korea 16, Nepal 0 remember??).

All this hoopla about reaching semi's in the SAFF championship is a much ado for a wee bit more than nothing.

 



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638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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