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Children of ’86

Children of ’86

The first football World Cup to be televised live in Nepal was 1982 Spain. Back then, there were no Nepali broadcasters, nor was there satellite TV. What little Nepalis got to witness, in uneven sound and pixilated pictures, came via the antenna on their rooftops. Even this shoddy broadcast was only available to the well-to-do as most Nepalis at the time could not afford television sets. Things would dramatically change with the establish­ment of Nepal Television in 1983 and particularly when the national broadcaster gained the rights to show the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.


By 1986, a few more Nepalis in urban areas could buy black-and-white TVs. Not only were there more TV sets on which to watch matches live. As the local NTV would be carrying pictures from Mexico the broadcast would also be much clearer. Thousands upon thou­sands of people huddled around the few television sets in their neighborhoods to watch the greatest sporting spectacle on the planet. What they saw mesmerized them, making them lifelong football fans.


Or make that Argentina fans. Nepalis just could not get enough of the diminutive ‘God’ who would easily out-dribble and out-run all his competitors on the field of play. Not just that. Unlike other mor­tals, he could score a legitimate goal even with his hands. Diego Maradona is perhaps the single biggest reason, along with his more contemporary protégé in Lionel Messi, why Argentina to this day has arguably the biggest fan following in Nepal among all major World Cup contenders. Just like you are more likely to vote for a political party your parents voted for, the children of the 1986 generation of Argentine fans find it hard to switch.


That said, this is no 1986. These days, football fans can watch their favorite sport being beamed live from all parts of the globe. The number of Nepalis who follow particular football clubs—English, Spanish, Germans—has also rocketed. With international trav­el getting cheaper, many can also afford to see the World Cup in person. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of Nepalis, will be in Russia to savor live action this June and July. Football thus continues to be wildly pop­ular despite the national men football team’s lowly 161 rank, and the near-impossibility its qualification for the World Cup any time soon. We may be divided by our pick of teams but we are all united by our common love for this beautiful game.