‘A’ division league starts from Friday

Lalitpur, August 21:

Prize money increased by 100 per cent, insurance of the players and referees, and a car to the best player. These are the new features in this year’s Martyrs’ Memorial San Miguel ‘A’ Division League Football Tournament, which begins from August 26 at the Dasharath Stadium and Chyasal grounds. There is another new feature from this edition — inclusion of Gyanendra Armed Police Force (APF) Officers’ Club, who enjoyed the ‘A’ Division status without playing qualifying tournaments. The organisers — All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) — have increased the prize money to Rs one million, which was half million last year. The six individual best— goalkeeper, defender, striker, highest scorer, midfielder and the manager — will get a Yamaha motor cycle each as last year, while the best player of the league will be awarded with a car from this year on.

The inclusion of APF team has increased the participating clubs to 15 including two promoted last year — Machhindra Club and Bouddha Football Club. A total of 210 games will be played in the double-league format league with one club playing 28 matches. The team accumulating the highest points will walk away with the championship trophy, while the bottom two will be relegated to ‘B’ division. Defending champions Three Star Club will play against the Gyanendra APF Club in the inaugural match at the Dasharath Stadium on August 26. The runners-up will get Rs 700,000 and Rs 500,000, while 4th-6th teams will receive Rs 300,000, Rs 200,000 and Rs 100,000 respectively. The 7th and 8th placeholders and a disciplined team will get Rs 50,000 each.

For the first time in the history of Nepali sports, the ANFA has insured 400 players and referees — 25 players each from all the 15 ‘A’ division clubs and 25 referees. A player or referee will get a maximum of Rs 25,000-worth expenses at one time if they get injured or fall sick, said ANFA president Ganesh Thapa, at a press meet today. “It will reduce the burden on the association as well as the clubs and the players and referees can take advantage of this facility throughout the year,” said Thapa. However, ANFA will pay the premiums to be paid for the insurance company — Himalayan General Insurance Co Ltd. Asked about the car, Thapa said: “We will award a car to the best player, but we are still in talks with sponsors for that.”

The estimated cost for the tournament is Rs 8 million, and the ANFA has planned to cover the expenses through the association itself, sponsors, and the gate collections. The main sponsor,

San Miguel, has signed an agreement to pay Rs 2.5 million a year, while co-sponsors Surya Nepal Pvt Ltd will give Rs one million to ANFA. “We are also in talks with other sponsors,” said

Thapa. ANFA senior vice president Mahesh Bista, vice president Narendra Shre-stha, acting general secretary Kumar Jung Thapa, spokes-person Lalit Krishna Shre-stha and other officials were present on the occasion.