EDITORIAL: Foul play

This should be a lesson to all concerned and extra precautions should be exercised to abide by the norms set by AFC so that the country is not disgraced

Nepal was once considered to be a powerhouse in football in South Asia. But over the decades the performance of the national team has not improved much. It is shown in the football rankings published by football’s world governing body. Of late, the performance of the Nepali national side has come under close scrutiny after alleged match-fixing scandals involving some players, including the captain of the Nepali national team came to light. The accused Nepali players claim that there was no such foul play. Meanwhile, it is a matter of curiosity why the performance of Nepal has been erratic, often very unsatisfactory, and they are losing matches which they should have won. Some defeats faced by Nepal were embarrassing with cricket-like scores. Match fixing could be the reason why Nepal has been faring poorly in football at the international level.

After the shocking revelation of the alleged match-fixing by some players of the Nepali national squad we now learn that the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has disqualified the youth team from Nepal playing in the AFC U-16 Championship for fielding an over-age player. When the team qualified for the AFC U-16 Championship final, football fans all over the country were jubilant. They had succeeded in doing so while their seniors failed to make a positive impression. The junior Nepali players had succeeded in defeating teams considered to be strong – Jordan and Kyrgyzstan. They finished second after losing to Oman to win the Championship berth and qualified to play in the championship to be held in India next year. The ANFA had performed tests on nine Nepalese players randomly before they left for Kyrgyzstan for MRI tests and nothing was found wrong. This was done by a Nepali doctor but when they were tested abroad it was found that the Nepali skipper was over aged after tests conducted by an AFC panel of multiple experts. Maybe the team officials are not to be blamed for this because there is difference in tests conducted in foreign countries which are more advanced and foolproof.

As a consequence, the Nepali squad has been disqualified from playing in the final matches in India. The concerned officials should have taken their time to do the MRI on nine players selected, including the captain. This incident is a disappointment for football fans in Nepal who were jubilant over the fact that the young Nepali players had qualified to play in the finals in India. This matter should be taken up seriously for at stake is the image of the country and sportspeople who are highly regarded. According to some, the tests that were conducted to determine the age of the players were done in haste at short notice. It takes time to go through all the procedures in the AFC – approved centre to see to it that the players meet the criteria. The AFC sends the doubtful samples to neutral experts to be verified by them. The ANFA has been fined $14,500 which it has to pay within 30 days. Moreover, further violation of the AFC could result in Nepal facing stronger action in the future. This should be a lesson to all the concerned and in future extra precautions should be exercised to abide by the norms set by AFC so that the country is not disgraced.

Adventure hub

The lake city of Pokhara and its adjoining areas are gradually becoming adventure sports centres and a large number of tourists are attracted towards adventure sports. Paragliding, ultra-light air tour, bungee jumping, rafting, zip line and honey hunting are some of the few activities that have added to the natural beauty of the lake city already famous for sight-seeing, trekking, village tourism and mountaineering. Several tourists from across the globe arrive in the lake city repeatedly just to experience the natural beauty and added adventure sports.

It is estimated that about 700,000 tourists, half of them foreigners, visit the Pokhara Valley and surrounding villages every year. More tourists can be expected to this beautiful place on earth once the much-awaited regional international airport comes into operation. The government should construct the airport which will not only boost the local economy but also contribute to the national economy. But local tourism entrepreneurs should also lend a helping hand to create tourism-friendly environment.