Change in leadership, direction needed at ANFA

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By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax,VA

After much uncertainties,lingering and dilly- dally, believe it or not,the All Nepal Football Association  election is finally  happening.

The fact of the matter is that the election is knocking on the door. Just like in every election cycle, there is plenty at stake for Nepal football this time, as well.

The irony is that Nepal football has not reaped benefits one bit from past elections. We have gone through numerous election cycles, sadly, football landscape remains more or less unchanged and things have gone from bad to worse.

As a result, Nepal football is in a sorry state of affairs to date. There has been no substantial development and progress made over two decades, and football continues to move in the wrong direction.

Ex-Boss of All Nepal Football Association Ganesh Thapa who was at the helm of power for more than two decades was/is largely responsible for the mess in football.

To be fair, he did some good work but was guilty of wrongdoings like never seen before.He dug his own grave ultimately.

It is no secret that he abused power for self-interest, governed as an authoritarian and surrounded himself with courtiers.

More importantly, he had control over the electoral system, which he used to his advantage to get elected, over and over. Again, he looms large as election countdown begins.

Expectedly, ANFA election is back in center stage. By all accounts, after much speculations, it looks increasingly likely that the fight for the most sought after leadership position is between present and past ANFA Vice President Mani Kunwar and Karma Tsering Sherpa respectively.

After the ouster of disgraced Mr.Thapa, Mr. Karma Tsering Sherpa is back in the race for the second time,hoping for a better election outcome.

It may be recalled that two years ago, he lost to the present ANFA President Narendra Shrestha who had the blessings and support of Thapa.

Like in the last election, Mr.Sherpa has stuck to the same slogan, ”Save Nepali Football”. His supporters have been crisscrossing the nation with the message.

It appears as though Mr. Sherpa is gaining grounds, and there are encouraging signs on the horizon. The good is that some of his detractors, Mr.Thapa’s loyalists, have endorsed his candidacy.

There is no reason why he should not feel optimistic about his chances. Having said that,Mr. Thapa still wields tremendous influence over the electorates. He has the money, resources and network to buy them like in the past.

On the other hand,Mr. Kunwar does not seems to have a campaign message and has maintained a low profile. He has no worries because Mr. Thapa is in charge of the campaign and reportedly working feverishly behind the scenes on his behalf.

This time ANFA President Shrestha,however, withdrew his candidacy  in favour of his Vice President Kunwar,throwing his weight behind him as expected.

It is very obvious that an understanding was reached between Mr Shrestha and Mr.Thapa to allow his brother in law Mr. Kunwar  contest the election.

After his exit from ANFA ,Mr.Thapa made his intentions very clear, “ I am not going away”. He has been active behind the scene and had/has a big say in the day to day affairs of his rubber stamp,Mr. Shrestha led ANFA,

No time was wasted by Mr.Thapa to promote and groom his future replacement in ANFA, Mr.Kunwar. He successfully had him elected as ANFA Vice President and forced Mr.Shrestha to drop his candidacy. Now he is eyeing for the bigger  slice of the pie.

Mr. Thapa is desperate  and doing all he can to get Mr.Kunwar  elected so that he could continue to have a stranglehold on ANFA, plain and simple.

Everyone knows Mr.Thapa is the heart and soul of Mr.Kunwar’s campaign. Just like Mr.Shrestha, should Mr.Kunwar get elected, he would be merely a ceremonial head, with Mr. Thapa, the puppet master pulling the strings from behind the stage.

Electing Mr. Kunwar will be tantamount to handing over ANFA reins back to Mr.Thapa. It will be a total disaster for Nepal football if he wins the election.

What amazes me the most is Mr.Thapa has openly   defied FIFA suspension imposed on him. Remember,he is currently serving a 10 -year  ban from footballing activities.His involvement in the upcoming election is in a direct violation of the suspension,

In a recent press conference held in Kathmandu,he had the gall to say he was innocent and FIFA does not stop him from speaking his mind  when it comes to issues about saving Nepal football.Is this a joke?

Mr. Thapa is dead wrong. Yes, the ban does not allow him to address or discuss matters related to football in any shape and form.

Mr.Thapa’s press conference, followed by his interaction with the press about football and the upcoming ANFA election is considered an activity. Either he is naive or pretends to be so.Clearly, Mr.Thapa has made a mockery of FIFA’s Ethics Committee ban. When the purpose is not served, the ban or suspension becomes totally irrelevant.

Does FIFA really care about it? Are they doing anything to make sure people like Mr.Thapa is complying with the ban?

Yes,Nepal football  needs new direction. To rephrase it, we need change in direction and leadership at ANFA. Therefore, stakes are high in the upcoming ANFA election.