The petty battles that sports managers fight in public has always made better copy than the performance of athletes and players. Not long after the much-criticised Sydney junket by the sporting authorities, the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA), the body that manages the country's football scene, is mired in a controversy that seems likely to drag on for some time.
It started two years ago, when the National Sports Council (NSC) prepared a draft charter and circulated it among various sporting associations asking that it be adopted for their governance. For its part, ANFA was also asked to submit its financial records for the last five years (although the Association, under the presidentship of former national football captain, Ganesh Thapa, has not complied so far).
Things took a turn some months back when Geeta Rana, head of the Women's Football Committee and a nominated member of the ANFA, filed a case with the Lalitpur Appellate Court, arguing that the proposed election to the national executive of ANFA was illegal since it was against the NSC strictures. The Court then ordered both NSC and ANFA to withhold any structural changes pending a final decision.
It was business as usual-until Thapa's term ended on 12 October. The NSC formed a new ad hoc committee to run ANFA under Geeta Rana on 14 October. Thapa responded by holding elections as provided by ANFA's old statute on 16 October, in which he and his executive committee were elected unopposed, a repeat of five years ago.
This in effect meant there are two ANFA committees. The NSC declared Thapa's election illegal, saying that it had to form the ad hoc committee as Ganesh Thapa's term had expired. Meanwhile, Thapa too filed a petition with the Appellate Court asking that that Rana's appointment be voided.
The reasons for the fight over control of the country's richest sporting body is clear. Not only will the winner determine who gets to go on junkets but will also control the reportedly huge but undisclosed amounts that come in as funds from various international bodies such as FIFA, the Asian Football Confederation, the Kuwait Football Federation and the Japanese Football Association.
Adding a further twist to the controversy was the presence of the Vice-President of the Asian Football Confederation, Manilal Fernando, in Kathmandu as election observer for FIFA. Fernando saw the drama up close and has said he would report the proceedings to FIFA. Publicly, Fernando seems to be on Thapa's side. "Football is a poor man's game in Nepal and Ganesh Thapa has been able to bring in a large amount of money for the game," he told the press. "He was even successful in bringing the (million-dollar) Goal Project to Nepal, ahead of the rest of South Asia."
Controversy is not new to the country's sporting sector, but this time the battle may have gone a bit too far: with two parallel bodies claiming legitimacy. Whatever the outcome of this tussle, it is evident that the captains of Nepali sport may never learn to play straight. And football management certainly needs a major overhaul because this is one sport that Nepalis are truly keen on.