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Editorial: High hopes from sports minister

Editorial: High hopes from sports minister

The Nepali football team has been forced to relocate their joint FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup qualifying match to the opposing country due to deteriorating conditions at Dashrath Stadium. Originally scheduled to be held at home, the match against Bahrain will now take place in Bahrain itself, owing to subpar field conditions at Dashrath Stadium. This change in venue could potentially influence the outcome of the game. The negligence of the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) in improving the condition of Dashrath Stadium has contributed to this situation. Such mismanagement in football has led players to seek opportunities abroad for a better future.

Furthermore, despite their unnecessary presence, 10 ANFA officials have accompanied the Nepali team currently in Malaysia. Their inclusion with the team serves no practical purpose and appears to be solely for their personal enjoyment, reflecting further mismanagement within the association.

The Ministry of Youth and Sports has raised objections to the foreign travel of the 10 ANFA officials, directing the National Sports Council (NSC) to take action against ANFA for their unauthorized trip abroad. 

There is optimism among athletes, fans, and the Nepali populace regarding the actions of the newly appointed Minister of Youth and Sports, Biraj Bhakta Shrestha, particularly his decision to address issues within ANFA. However, Minister Shrestha faces significant challenges ahead. The state of Nepali sports, not just in football but across various sectors, is concerning. 

Athletes are facing payment issues, sports leagues lack consistency, and there’s a notable absence of a proper scouting system. These factors are prompting emerging players to consider opportunities abroad. It falls upon the new minister to rectify these shortcomings within the sports fraternity.

The shortage of sports facilities is a pressing issue, exacerbated by the inadequate functioning of existing ones. Frustrated and disillusioned with the government’s inaction, individuals have taken it upon themselves to fund sports centers. Recently, Binod Kunwar, a cricket enthusiast and entrepreneur, independently financed the construction of a multipurpose stadium in Tilottama municipality of Rupandehi by investing Rs 400m. This significant investment by the private sector serves as a clear indictment of the government’s failure to address the issue. The new minister faces the challenge of increasing the number of government-owned stadiums and improving the conditions of existing ones to ensure that Nepali teams do not have to resort to playing their home games on foreign soil.

General secretary of the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN), Paras Khadka, exemplifies how effective leadership can positively impact the sports fraternity. Since his election to the position, there has been a notable increase in cricketers’ salaries and the organization of regular cricket matches. It is crucial for Minister Shrestha to uphold the expectations of the people and ensure that these positive changes continue.