By a Staff Reporter
Nepal U20 National Football team is dominating in the ongoing SAFF U20 Championship 2022 at Bhubaneswar in India. With two wins in a row, Nepal is one of the favorites to play in the final of the tournament.
While the whole country is enjoying young players performing, the champion players of SAFF U18 Championship are seeking their reward which All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) announced after they were crowned champions in 2017.
The championship, which was previously held under the name of SAFF U19 and SAFF U18, is now being held under the name of SAFF U20 Championship. Nepal had won the first two editions while India had won the latest edition.
This age group championship was first commenced under the name of SAFF U19 Championship. The first edition of the championship was held in Nepal in 2015 where host Nepal clinched the title defeating visitors India 5-4 in penalties at ANFA Complex, Satdobato. With this win, Nepal bagged an International Trophy for the first time in 22 years at its home. This is also considered as the starting point of a successful calendar year in Nepali Football as they went on to win Bangabandhu Cup, 13th SAG Gold Medal and AFC Solidarity cup in the span of 14 months.
Likewise, the second edition was held in Bhutan under the name of SAFF U18 Championship in 2017. Defending champions Nepal defeated Bangladesh in the finals at Changlimithang Stadium on September 17, 2017, to record its second consecutive title in the SAFF’s age group Championship. Chhiring Lopsang was the head coach of the team whereas Arpan Karki was the captain. Following the victory, ANFA headed by the then President Narendra Shrestha announced Rupees 2 lakhs reward to each player of the squad as an appreciation.
The third edition took place in Nepal again in 2019 as SAFF U18 Championship. Nepal, grouped with Bhutan and Maldives was knocked out from the group stage. Nepal played 1-1 draw against the Maldives in its first outing whereas Bhutan trashed the host 3-0 in Halchowk Stadium at Kathmandu. The team was rewarded with Rs. 10 thousands per head a week later despite the embarrassment at home.
Following the embarrassing defeat against Bhutan, Nepal was knocked out from the group stage. Later, India bagged the title. Right after the embarrassing defeat against Bhutan, Head Coach Chet Narayan Shrestha resigned from his post.
The fourth edition is currently being held in India where Nepal is leading the points table and is the favorite to play in the finals. While one youth team is dominating in the championship, the youth squad that won the second edition awaits their reward to be redeemed, which was announced half a decade ago.
When Nepal was crowned champions of SAFF U18 championship for the second time in a row in 2017 at Changlimithang Stadium defeating the strong side Bangladesh, ANFA announced that it will reward each player of the squad with Nrs. 2 lakh as an appreciation and to boost up the players’ morale. The players were ecstatic after they heard about the reward. The reward was announced but failed to reward players during Shrestha’s tenure.
On May 5, 2018 (Baishakh 22, 2075) Karma Tshering Sherpa along with his panel won the ANFA Election. After winning the election, they committed that they will reward the players, which was announced by the then ANFA Executive Committee. The Exco under Sherpa had planned to reward the player on ANFA Day dated May 4, 2020 (Baishakh 22, 2077) but it was halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
ANFA did not pay the reward amount to the players time and again with various excuses. But they kept announcing more of such for other tournaments and even handed them the full sum. In between Covid-19 pandemic took place which then became their favorite excuse to avoid the matter. However, they provided half an amount of reward last year as informed by one of the players from the squad.
‘We had requested ANFA several times to provide us with our rewards. They kept on assuring us and kept on giving us new dates time and again. Finally 4 years after we won the championship, ANFA deposited half of the amount in our accounts on August 13, 2021. When asked about the remaining amount, ANFA told that they will deposit the remaining amount anytime soon but we have not received it yet,’ one of the player from the squad of 2017 SAFF U18 team informed. The player opted not to disclose his name.
On June 20, 2022 Sherpa’s tenure came to an end as he lost to Pankaj Bikram Nembang in the ANFA election. Most of the candidates under Nembang panel won the election. Kiran Rai, who was the spokesperson of Sherpa’s secretariat has been appointed as the General Secretary of Nembang’s Executive Committee from the first Exco meeting held after the two days of the ANFA election. Nabin Pande was also appointed as the Head of International Affairs, whose appointment is causing huge dispute in ANFA at the moment.
It is doubtful whether the new Ex Co meeting will clear the overdue to players or not. The new General Secretary of ANFA Kiran Rai said that he cannot say anything until the ANFA receives the audit report. “We are doing our audit currently. We have appointed almost 22 manpower to prepare the audit report. After we receive the Audit report, we will get a clear vision of the debts after which we will discuss it in our Ex Co meeting, and only I can talk regarding that topic. Till then I cannot commit anything,” said ANFA General Secretary Rai.
Another player of the squad expressed his sorrow stating they would not have felt bad if ANFA didn’t announce the reward. “We would not be concerned had ANFA not announce any reward. But it is obvious to have expectations once they’ve announced it in public. If they have no plans on giving away the rewards, it would have been better if they didn’t announce,” said the player.
Almost all of the domestic players are unemployed at the moment. ANFA has no plans to keep players engaged in football throughout the year. The top-tier division club keeps players under contract only for 4 months or so. After the complication of the league and few moffusil tournaments, players do not have contracts and are unemployed. As the ANFA has no strong footballing plans, many national players have jetted off overseas whereas some flew to India to compete in State League.
“ANFA office bearers receive the salary throughout the year where we players have to be satisfied with the salary of 4 or 5 months. After the complication of the league neither the club pays attention to us nor ANFA. Our extra income is generated from rewards. We give everything we have to make the nation proud. But in the end, the only thing we get is frustration and have to jet off abroad forcefully. We are having a very tough time now as we are unemployed and have nothing to do at the moment. If the ANFA gives our reward, it will help us a lot as we are struggling to fulfill our basic needs as well,” the player added in frustration.
While ANFA is busy in its game of appointment and dismissal, numerous senior national team squad players have gone off abroad to pursue their future. The new executive committee does not seem to have a strong agenda regarding the development of football. The office bearers are busy in internal politics and failing to conduct its second exco meeting itself. The agendas with plans of footballing activity of the whole year is on hold. The second exco meeting which was originally scheduled to take place on 18th July was postponed following the health issue of president Nembang.
The meeting which was rescheduled for 21st July got halted without entering in the agenda. Senior Vice President Bir Bahadur Khadka and other members refused to sign the attendance, demanding the dismissal of its Head of International Affairs Pande who was appointed from its first meeting. As the dispute increased regarding the dismissal of Pande, president Nembang had to forcefully call off the meeting. The new date of the meeting is yet to be set.
The appointment of Pande during the first meeting was agreed and signed by all 19 Ex Co members. But they could not stick to their decision even for a month. Out of 19, 13 members of committee have handed signed letter to ANFA leadership demanding Pande’s dismissal.
ANFA is also yet to pay the preparation money of last year’s league to the A, B, and C division clubs. The prize amount of Man of the match of respective league matches are yet to be done.
Due to this due, most of the A division players have not received their salary of few months from their respective clubs. Even the top-tier clubs are struggling to keep up with their accounts after the FA failed to pay the amount of league which ended almost 6 months before.