Wednesday, April 17

The league that terrifies coaches

Subas Humagain, Kathmandu

On Friday, Young winger duo Ayush Ghalan and Manish Dangi scored in the final of the Three Nations Cup as Nepal beat Laos at Dasharath Stadium to lift the title. 21-year-old Manish became the player of the final . Similarly, 19-year-old Ayush was adjudged the best player of the tournament. Only 2 days after the final, both of them will be playing league match for Sankata Club.

Not only Sankata, but every club in the A division has to finish the remaining 21 games of the league within the next 2 months. ANFA has already announced the schedule till the 13th round of the league the day before the Three Nations final. According to the schedule, the clubs are playing 8 matches in next 26 days. After that, the remaining 13 games have to be completed within a month.

Due to the dire financial condition of the clubs, ANFA has promised to finish the league before the SAFF Championship. SAFF Championship will be held in India from June 21 to July 3. With the preparation time for the national team ahead of SAFF in mind, the 21 matches of the league should be completed in 2 months. In this situation, not only the players are physically and mentally drained, but also the coaches are getting enough time to prepare the team.

The newly appointed coach of the national team, Vincenzo Alberto Annese, expressed concern about the condition of the players rather than happiness of winning the title. After the win, he looked very happy as he walked around the stadium with the players the whole time. After the match, he took a long time to exchange happiness and take photos at the closing ceremony, but in the post match conference, he expressed more concern about the future of the players than the joy of the victory.

Annese’s main concern was that the players did not have a good environment to play the game. Knowing the condition of ANFA and Clubs, he did not directly criticize the league but repeatedly said that it is necessary to give opportunities to Nepalese players in foreign leagues. His primary objective in this was to establish a better environment for the players, as their performance can improve significantly when they are well-rested and competing in a well-structured league.

When asked about players not being able to perform at their best due to league schedule and if there is need of change, he answered, “I know this, you know it, ANFA knows it, everyone knows it. But we can’t do anything. This is due to the sponsorship of the league, the financial situation and the need to complete the calendar of the league. I think the best option is to send the players of the national team to play abroad,” he said.

“If you say professional players, then the league must be professional too. Everyone knows ANFA too. But the reason is the budget of the club that plays A division. So in this situation it is better to send some players out. There is no possibility of change in the league,” he added.

Annese said that the players of the national team should be sent abroad to perform well. “It is not that the Nepali league is not competitive, but I see that some players should go abroad to prepare themselves well. Instead of playing in 2-3 days, they can prepare better with foreign coaches. There is also time to recover after the game. Along with this, they also get to practice with the team in tactical areas,” said Annese.

Coach Annese expressed his concern that the coach does not have enough time to improve the level of play in the A Division. “Looking at the schedule of the league, there is a situation where the coach conducts one training session. If it was me, I would not have training,” he said, “The power of the coach in the A division is getting weaker. If you are a coach, you should have a weekly plan and think about improving the team. But how can it be improved if there is no training here?”

“The coach will improve the performance only if there is time to work according to the plan. To keep the players physically ready, to practice tactics and to knit other plans including set pieces. You should be equally strong mentally. After losing a game 1-0, if you have a week for the next game, you can prepare well. Therefore, it is necessary for the players to find opportunities elsewhere for quality games and quality training,” Annese added.

Compared to the past editions, the league is being played in different circumstances. Since Machhindra last lifted the title, more than 3 dozen experienced players have left the country in search of better opportunities off the field. Since the players who played for the national team and were featuring as starters in their clubs left, the quality of the league has declined. Almost one-third of the players who started for the clubs have jetted off and new players are trying to take their place. For new players who are starting in A Division for the first time, competition at a high level and lack of proper rest directly affects not only the game but also their health.

Three Star Club’s Head Coach Meghraj KC admitted that the league is at a lower level compared to the past. After defeating his former club Satdobato Youth Club just two weeks ago, he said, “Winning or losing is natural when two teams enter the field. At the end of the league, one team will become champion. But the thing in question is the quality of league. Not just the spectators and but all of us are missing familiar faces in pitch,” he said.

“This year, Nepali football is in a transition phase. At this time, players, clubs and organizers should all be encouraged. There is a situation to save Nepali football. But we should not help those who do wrong knowingly. Those who make mistakes unintentionally should be forgotten, but those who make deliberate mistakes will cause loss to football,” KC added.

Coach KC said that if the level of club football drops, it will affect the national team as well. “When many players who are playing at a high level in club football suddenly leave, it affects the league. And its not only the clubs that will suffer but also the national team. There will be a problem building the national team. Therefore, we should try to make the future of football better by giving a good environment to the players available now,” said KC.

As Annese said, the coaches in Nepal do not have time to prepare for the league. But this problem is not only in the league, but also in the knockouts competition. Clubs play up to three tournaments at the same time citing financial reasons. There are also plenty of examples of playing two days in a row traveling from the East to the West.

While players are obliged to play after signing a contract with the club. The failure of ANFA to regulate the knockout competitions and adjustment of the league schedule has ultimately affected the level of Nepali football.

According to the schedule of the league, the players have to play A division matches even in alternate days. Playing 21 matches in 2 months is definitely not easy for the players when the SAFF Championship is approaching. Clubs cannot even think of giving rest to players playing in the national team when there is a fierce competition for results. This is sure to have a direct impact on the SAFF Championship that Nepal will play in June-July.

Coach Annese will not have players at their best in preparation for SAFF with players tired from playing the league continuously. The schedule also means he will not be able to have a long time to prepare for the premier tournament. Not only will he have limited time to announce the preliminary squad, the preparation with final squad will be limited.

The Italian coach has thought of sending some players to foreign leagues after understanding this situation. But with the players contracted with the clubs in Nepal and the league is on hiatus in other countries including India, the possibility of any transfer looks weak.

Nepal became the runner-up in the last edition of SAFF Championship and will definitely aim to win it this time. But, the league which is supposed to be feeder to national team looks like reversing its role. Annese, who is saddened by the state of the league, has no choice but to accept it and move on.

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