July 7, Kathmandu. Four years ago, Karmachhiring Sherpa and Pankaj Bikram Nemwang of the same group became the president and vice-president and took the reins of Nepali football. Less than a year later, Nemwang defeated Sherpa on Monday to become the president of the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA).
Nemwang, who has been playing the role of the opposition in the working committee as the senior vice-chairman, has now reached the point of answering.
Nemwang had started his election homework as soon as the previous term was elected. He was accompanied by Dawa Lama, Bir Bahadur Khadka, Kiran Rai and others from within the working committee.
Nemwang was able to displace Karma after the majority of voters supported the agenda of economic transparency, collective decision making, decentralization, power sharing, accountability, efficient secretariat, promotion of national team, grassroots and youth programs, equal priority for women’s and men’s football.
Nemwang has a comfortable majority in the executive committee for the next four years as he is leading an organization that spends about one billion rupees annually. But in terms of budget and network, ANFA, one of the major sports federations in Nepal, has naturally become the target of many interest groups. He also has the challenge of balancing foreign relations.
Most new faces
Along with the chairperson, 13 members including senior vice chairperson, four vice chairpersons and two women have been elected from the election process. Although 15 members had to be elected, it could not be decided as four members got the same number of votes. Now, it has been agreed that two of the four elected members will be decided by the next general assembly.
Probably for the first time in the history of ANFA, almost everyone in the new working committee is new to their posts. Bir Bahadur Khadka was elected vice-chairman of the previous working committee while Dawa Lama and Dirgha Bahadur KC were members of the working committee. Twelve newly elected central members, including a woman, and vice-chairman Deepak Khatiwada were not in the previous working committee.
Leader management in own group
With a one-sided victory four years ago, Karma Chhiring had a hard time managing her own group. However, he had brought those who had been in Ganesh Thapa’s group for a long time to win the election.
After winning the election, those who had been with Karma for a long time were angry when he was given the post. Karmachhiring took almost a year to nominate a senior vice president because of the difficulty in managing the leaders of his group.
This time the group split. Dividing the two sides in half, this time Nemwang will not be as difficult as Karma in managing the leader.
According to ANFA’s constitution, the general secretary and treasurer should be nominated from among the elected members. Nemwang’s group also discusses Kiran Rai, the general secretary, who was a former working committee member and spokesperson.
After resigning from the post of ANFA spokesperson, Nemwang has been busy preparing for the election and will probably be nominated as the new secretary general. The Nemwang group is preparing to repeat Rabindraman Joshi as treasurer. But they may have to manage Krishna Thapa, who did not come to the polls directly, but who helped them.
Also, the management of former captains Upendraman Singh, Hari Khadka, Bal Gopal Maharjan and Rakesh Shrestha, who have joined the working group but are considered technically competent, will not be easy for ANFA president Pankaj Bikram.
Happiness in Ganesh Thapa group
It has been seven years since the 22-year-old ANFA leader Ganesh Thapa was banned by the World Football Federation (FIFA) for 10 years for financial misconduct. But he is not far from football. Just before the ANFA election, he accused Chairman Karma Chhiring of political corruption in ANFA.
It was also alleged that Pankaj Bikram had taken the support of Thapa group in this election. Because even after Ganesh Thapa’s exit in the ANFA election, Virat Jung Shahi of Kathmandu district, Purushottam Thapa of Lalitpur, Deepak Khatiwada of Dhading and others who did not leave with him had supported Pankaj’s panel.
Pankaj, on the other hand, has always been contradictory. He argues that at one time he and Karmachhiring himself worked in Ganesh Thapa’s working committee and those who were made office bearers by Karmachhiring last time are also in Thapa’s team.
But the cheers celebrated by the Thapa group after Nemwang’s victory at the Park Village Resort in Budhanilkantha on Monday night refuted Pankaj’s claim. Former ANFA president Narendra Shrestha and Shapa’s youngest son Abhishek had been at the convention venue since Monday morning.
After Pankaj was elected, Gaurav and Abhishek, former accountant of ANFA Motilal Shrestha and former president of Jawalakhel Youth Club Sunil Shamsher Rana celebrated. Now, the influence of Thapa and his group in ANFA shows the cooperation of Pankaj and Ganesh Thapa’s group in the election.
ANFA Excellence Center and National League
Giving a brief response after being elected as ANFA chairman on Monday, Pankaj has indicated that the program of the previous working committee will be continued. He said that the project of establishing a women’s academy in Rautahat would be continued. Running the National League is on his election agenda.
ANFA has made an ambitious announcement to build a well-equipped infrastructure in an area of 256 ropanis in Bhedabari of Kaski, the construction process of which has not started yet.
As per the plan, 3 natural grass fields, 2 artificial grass fields, 2 futsal and 2 beach soccer fields will have to be constructed. The new executive committee will be responsible for building a swimming pool, gym and rehab center with accommodation for 120 players and officials by 2026 in collaboration with FIFA.
Although ANFA has brought the concept of national league forward, it has not been able to operate yet. The reason for not being able to organize the competition by selecting for the national league during Karmachhiring is mainly due to the budget. Now, with the promotion of Shaheed Smarak A Division League, Pankaj has the responsibility to re-launch the National League with the participation of four outside clubs.
The new leadership has not yet come up with an idea about the continuation of the Nepal Super League where one edition has been organized and the second edition has been postponed time and time again. Nemwang had sided with the club in a dispute between Nepal Sports and Event Management, the organizer of the Nepal Super League, and A division clubs.
Football experts have been saying that the demand of the franchise club to pay a certain amount to allow its players to play in the Nepal Super League is not practical. In his first response after being elected, Nemwang said that an attempt would be made to reach an agreement between the club and the organizers.
Coach-player controversy and the future of Almutairi
Karmachhiring’s failure to resolve the incident in which 10 senior players of the national team were forced out of closed training in the second week of April is considered a failure.
There are allegations that he is particularly leaning towards the coach. Probably for the same reason, after defeating Karmachhiring on Monday, Nemwang supporters chanted the slogan ‘Whose victory is this, 10 players who have been wronged’.
ANFA’s investigation committee has suggested finding an alternative to Abdullah Almutairi in the incident of players being forced out of the camp after being mistreated in closed training. But this implementation is not easy. Because the pro-licensed Kuwaiti coach Almutairi has come to Nepal with the help of Qatar Football Association and his contract is till 2024.
Pankaj, on the other hand, said that the implementation of the report would be discussed at the first meeting of the working committee.
Almutairi has not returned to Nepal after the third round of Asian Cup qualifiers. After Nemwang’s victory, he left a message on Facebook and Instagram that he would not return to Nepal. But within minutes he deleted his post.
Almutairi, who was appointed as the coach of the Nepali team in March, 2077 BS, had said on Facebook in July, 2078 BS that he was about to resign due to senior vice president Nemwang.
An investigation committee set up by the Ministry of Youth and Sports at the request of ANFA had alerted Almutairi after Nemwang demanded an investigation into the allegations against him.
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