Sports management in Nepal is all about teeth-baring fights between top officials, if newspaper reports are anything to go by. There's Rukma Shumsher Rana vs Kishore Bahadur Singh, an argument between the Nepal Olympic Committee and the National Sports Council to control the resources allocated to sports development. The other long-festering quarrel is between Geeta Rana and Ganesh Thapa about who will be at the helm of the All Nepal Football Association.
These fights often degenerate into tiring spectator sports-draining enthusiasm out of fans and making others hesitant to take the development of Nepali sports seriously. Meanwhile, a politicised and polarised Sports Council twiddles its thumb while examples of its mismanagement becomes embarrassingly visible.
Consider these examples: when Nepali sportsmen and women went to Islamabad earlier this year to take part in the 9th South Asian Federation (SAF) Games, they made an arduous cross-continent journey by train. The officials, however, flew to Karachi. Unsurprisingly, our athletes performed well below expectations, even at football, where they could've won gold.
At home, the lack of maintenance has made Dasrath Rangasala a mud bath for teams competing in the ongoing Martyrs' Memorial League Football. The players appear to spend more time avoiding slip-ups than dribbling. Last year, two people drowned in the stadium's swmming pool because there was no trained lifeguard on duty. No one was held accountable and according to Samay magazine, the situation remains negligent this summer too.
Recently, two separate official delegations left Nepal to attend the same taekwondo federation meeting at Seoul. Other than an obvious duplication of efforts, such junkets only divide athletes' loyalties and send mixed signals to the world. One reason why sports management remains a mess is because of a rooted Panchayati philosophy.
Sport is thought of as an activity that requires nurturing by the state and constant interference by the bureaucracy. While sports has metamorphosed into billion-dollar industries in other parts of the world, here in Nepal, the fight is to protect fixed shares of the pie instead of collaborative work to increase what already exists. As a result, they are unable to create incentives to attract private money to pay for repair and maintenance of sports infrastructures.
Against this depressing backdrop, the recent news about the corporate sponsoring of taekwondo athlete Sangina Vaidya (pictured), the first Nepali to formally qualify for this year's Olympics, is to be welcomed. The six companies-VOITH, ICTC, Nepal Lever, Jyoti Group, Nabil Bank and Dabur Nepal-said they were motivated by patriotism to cover 85 percent of Sangina's costs ('Shining Sangina', #199). Their action sent three positive signals: first, the Nepali corporate sector now sees the value of endorsing top athletes. Second, under certain conditions, private money is available for the development of sports. And last, access to additional funds may help boost an athlete's chance for an Olympic medal.
Given all this, one challenge remains for our sports bureaucrats-they must stop their fights and look for ways to attract private funds for sports and athletes. This way, when Nepali athletes win, their victory reflects well on us all.