KATHMANDU, July 23: The All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) is organizing the Martyr’s Memorial A-Division League after a halt of five long years.
The trend of halting and organizing the league that has proved to be a backbone of Nepali football has been continuing for nearly seven decades.
The ANFA leadership has scheduled the start of the league for September 29. While the ANFA is organizing the league after a long wait, it has decided not to relegate any team from the top tier.
The league that runs for months will give a new champion, but the bottom teams in the ‘A’ Division will stay in the league, and not get relegated.
That means, the teams who play well will get awarded for their hard work, but the teams who perform poorly will not have to pay any price.
The present working committee who came to the leadership with a slogan of ‘change’ at the ANFA might believe that organizing the league without relegation would be a big achievement.
But, for stakeholders, the no-relegation system will adversely affect the spirit of the league.
The former skipper of the national team Deepak Amatya said that the league without relegation cannot carry the spirit of the league.
“A league is a tournament that is played between teams to bring a good result. Why to compete if there is no relegation? They can give you the example of the United State’s Major League Soccer (MLS), but there is no such type of scenario in Nepal.
There is investment and ownership in the MLS and the owners have to bear the loss if they lose. So, they have to play well,” Amatya wrote in his Facebook, “The league with a relegation system is only a game to get money from FIFA. They don’t care about the promotion and relegation in the league and they will also get to stay as central members with it.”
Amatya is of view that the people want to see something new in Nepali football.
“Like a semi-professional league or any other thing, we want the league to give us a different direction,” Amatya wrote.
Despite the announcement of the date for the start of the league by the new ANFA working committee under the leadership of Karma Tshering Sherpa, who was elected as the ANFA president in May through a Special General Assembly, they have not yet announced the conclusion of the league, nor the venue and not even the prize money of the league, among other things.
As the Dasarath Stadium is not yet reconstructed after the 2015 earthquake, there are other stadiums where the league can be organized. The ANFA Complex in Satdobato, Army Technical Center in Lagankhel, and the Halchowk Stadium of the Armed Police Force are the possible venues for the league in which a total of 14 teams can take part.
The ANFA has decided to promote a team each from the B and C divisions despite the system of not relegating any teams from the top tier. Former national player and former Additional Inspector General (AIG) of Nepal Police, Bigyan Raj Sharma, who is the coordinator of the league organizing committee, is also part of the ‘ANFA change campaign’.
Sharma was on the side of not organizing the league without a relegation system.
“He said that he would not stay as a coordinator if there is no relegation system, in a meeting called to discuss about the format calling upon all the A Division clubs.
The minutes were also written,” a representative of a club said in a conversation with Republica, “In fact, the league is not just a competition of a division. It is a single package from the competition of A Division to the selection of B to C divisions where some clubs of the A Division get relegated to the second division.
The upper finishers of the second division take the place of the lower teams of the first division,” he added.
“This pyramid runs from the selection of C Division to the D Division as well.
But, it has been said that the teams will not be relegated from the first division and only the teams from B and C divisions will be promoted. There is no system of relegation in those tiers as well. So this may not even be called a league.”
Sharma said that they are undergoing discussions about two different modalities of the league.
The General Secretary of Ruslan Three Star Club, Sanjeev Shilpakar, also said that he does not agree with the system of no relegation. “A league without a relegation system is a sham. We and Laxmi Hyundai Manang Marshyangdi Club protested against this type of league format.
But, it was said that Nepali football would completely stop if the relegation system was applied.”
“They also called upon the FIFA representatives to approve the no-relegation league,” Shilpakar told Republica, “I requested the ANFA officials to organize this type of league just for a year to continue football activities and also asked FIFA representatives to say the same. So, after that, we agreed to play in the league just for the start of major football activity, but this is not a real league.’’
A senior ANFA official said that the ANFA members had promised to organize the league with no relegation with the A Division clubs and appealed to FIFA to let them organize the league.
“They had given their words to many clubs to not relegate any team while campaigning for the election. Now the leadership has to oblige as those clubs have reminded them about their promise of no relegation,” the official added.
“We blindly believed them because of the slogan of ‘Change in ANFA’. We truly believed that the ANFA would get changed in reality and Nepali football will achieve success. But, it is difficult to save face now after they proposed to organize the no-relegation league.”
ANFA President Sherpa said that they had to organize this kind of league to reinvigorate Nepali football that was put on hold from a long time.
“The transitional period of Nepali football has not ended yet. FIFA has also practiced this kind of league in the other countries in times of crisis. There are no enough players in Nepal to organize a relegation league,” Sherpa said.
“Even now there are not sufficient players for nine clubs. We need to at least create an environment where clubs can play. Obviously, there will be no league if there are no
players. People have made fabricated accusations on me. The league will be competitive according to the situation of Nepali football.”