A sportsperson represents his/her nation, and it is, therefore, their duty to maintain discipline and personal integrity in sports
The All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) has taken disciplinary action against four national team players – striker Bimal Gharti Magar and midfielders Anjan Bista, Santhosh Tamang and Dinesh Rajbansi – and barred them from travelling to Bhutan, where Nepal is scheduled to play against Kuwait in the return leg match of the joint qualifiers of the FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup. The match is being played at Changlimthang Stadium in Thimphu on Tuesday. They were axed from the team after they were found to have spent a night in Thamel’s discos and clubs on the eve of the team’s departure for Thimphu. Nepal were forced to play their home match on neutral venue after the AFC did not approve Dashrath Stadium for the match as it is undergoing renovation for next month’s 13th South Asian Games. Nepal had faced a 7-0 drubbing in the first leg match, and the team flew to Thimphu on Saturday without the four players. The chances of their winning the match without their participation are slim. ANFA spokesperson Kiran Rai said the four players were dropped for the match against Kuwait and also added that further action would be taken after a thorough investigation. Rai said the players violated team discipline and remained outside till late in the night.
They were taken disciplinary action after consulting Head Coach Johan Kalin, who had announced the 22-member squad for the Kuwait match. Kalin flew to Thimphu with 19 players after adding Subash Gurung to the squad. This is not the first time that Nepali footballers have breached discipline. Earlier in October 2015, members of the Nepal national team – Captain Sagar Thapa, vice-captain Sandip Rai, goalkeeper Ritesh Thapa, former national defender Bikash Singh Chhetri, and former national player and former coach of Three Star Club Anjan KC – were arrested for match-fixing in the international games that Nepal played. The Special Court, however, acquitted them of match-fixing in national and international games and their alleged nexus with bookies in June 2018. But ANFA has acted promptly against the players this time.
A sportsperson represents the nation at both national and international levels, and the nation spends millions of rupees to groom his/her budding talent. There had been reports in the past that some players had also vanished in Japan and South Korea while going there to represent the nation in the Olympics Games and other international events. Such acts only tarnish the nation’s image. Sports helps build nationalism and patriotism. Whenever our national team wins an international event, we celebrate their feat, and the government offers cash and other incentives to them. It is, therefore, the duty of all the players to maintain personal discipline and integrity. No player can excel if s/he does not maintain discipline as required by the sports and rules of their governing bodies. And this applies to sports officials also. Even they have been found to have been engaged in non-sports activities in foreign countries whereas their role was to keep their players intact by giving them motivation to the extent possible. Let such indiscipline not repeat in the future.
Were it not for the statistics released by the Nepal Police, one would have taken the raids being conducted on the gambling dens as isolated incidents. But it seems gambling parlours across the country are more pervasive than believed, with the police having busted 956 of them in the last three years, half of them in the Kathmandu Valley. Gambling is punishable by a jail term and a fine, but this has not deterred mostly government employees, both retired and incumbent, businessmen and contractors from indulging in it.
Whatever it takes, the authorities must discourage gambling as this has led to domestic violence, crimes, broken homes and, in quite a few instances, homes lost altogether. At a time when most families have a hard time making ends meet, that a certain class of people can indulge in heavy betting worth millions of rupees means something is amiss. A thorough probe into their assets is a must to see that there is no ill-gotten wealth. The police have been doing a good job, raiding dens even frequented by high-profile people, and there must be no interference from high places in the bid to banish the scourge from the country.
A version of this article appears in print on November 18, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.