ANFA needs to mend ways to improve standard

KATHMANDU: Playing in their home turf, Nepal suffered embarrassing defeats during the AFC U-16 Championship Group B qualifying campaign here at the Dasharath Stadium.

The humiliating exit prompted Nepal’s chief coach Dambar Gurung to accept the failure as his worst ever of his coaching career. The hosts not only lost all four matches but were also unable to score a single goal during the entire qualifying campaign. Gurung, who was optimistic despite loses in their previous three matches, expressed his frustration after their 4-0 defeat against Tajikistan in the last match. Gurung accused his players of being indisciplined and not taking their jobs seriously.

Nepali team looked promising in their 1-0 loss against Lebanon but as the match progressed the margin of their defeats started to widen. The hosts were beaten 3-0 by Iran,

5-0 by Bahrain and 4-0 by Tajikistan. After their final match, the Tajikistan coach Babaev Zoir said that he was impressed by the way Nepal played but also suggested improving the physical fitness of the Nepali players. “Nepali are technically gifted players, but they need to improve on their physique if they are to play a competitive game,” said Zoir.

Most importantly, Gurung pointed out that Nepal was physically outclassed by their opponents in the tournament. He was surprised to see the growth of other team’s players who were strongly-built and were around six feet tall. “We played against the same set of Tajikistan and Iranian players in the Under-14 Festival of Football and were able to put in competitive matches. Our players have developed very little over the time physically compared to the same teams we played in the Festival of Football,” said the helpless coach.

Gurung might be correct in his assessment with Nepal’s

inability to cope up with

the physical side of the game but he ignored other weaknesses of his team. Before and during the tournament, Gurung always boosted his team’s strength in midfield.

The midfield, however, never performed during the tournament. Players being out of position, poor passing and the inability to create chances were the feature of Nepali team. Many a goal Nepal conceded resulted due to poor defence and not due to the brilliance of their opponent.

The Iranian coach Mohammadi Akbar rightly revealed the state of Nepali football when he said Nepal was playing an academy football. Akbar made a valid point in his assessment of the Nepali team, which largely came from the ANFA Academy, as they have hardly had any competitive international exposure before playing the AFC tournament. It would have been a big ask from such a team to bring in the satisfying results. All was not disappointing as the Nepali boys showed signs of their technical brilliance.

Quality football players are produced not only by keeping them at an academy and teaching the technical skills for a longer period of time but by taking care of overall aspects of the game, including monitoring the proper diets and physical aspects of the players. The football governing body should learn from the disgraceful exit and correct their mistakes to help Nepal rise from the current state of despair.