Saturday, August 27, 2011

Rupak Memorial Awards: A shot misfired?

All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) awarded 12 of its prized possessions this week. Since it started, Rupak Memorial Awards have held its position in Nepali football. And it would have saddened former national captain and FIFA referee Rupak Sharma - who passed away in an unfortunate accident - to see that the award was discontinued for some years.
For restarting the awards, ANFA deserves a pat on its back. Restarting a discontinued event to an organization is akin to a player trying to force his way back into the game after injury. It's a mental fight, which gets tougher by every passing day. And ANFA should be lauded. After all, these prizes are what makes the players struggle harder, compete better.
However, much as the restart needs to be congratulated, it should be critically viewed. There are some chinks in the whole episode that should not be ignored and if not corrected in time, would neither improve ANFA's image nor its working style. Some questions would demand answer.
The first of them being, how can we have two best players for every year? The awards are constituted to felicitate excellence and unless the real best is awarded, the whole purpose is lost. It is easy to select two each year as it gives selectors easier option of not leaving the second best; but it compromises the dignity of awards. The merit of awards comes under scrutiny. Mind you, it has not come as exception but general rule. Second bests are second bests, no matter how good they are. Silver medalists are never termed champions.
It would be sad to know that ANFA, or the selection team headed by former national coach Bhim Thapa selected two players for each year, just to please everyone. But awards are not meant for keeping everyone happy. It is to honor and inspire excellence. Short cuts should not be preferred.
The other question that could pop up to an inquisitive mind, would be: How were Bikash Malla and Ritesh Thapa named the best players of the year gone by. Now the point of argument should not be mistaken here. It is not to diminish the service they have provided to Nepali football. They have, to the best of their capability, done a good job under the bars.
But the point here is, both these players are not the first choice goalkeeper for the national team. It is Kiran Chemjong, who has pushed his way as the number one keeper in Nepal. And his name was missing from the list. How can the top one be left out and two second bests are honored? We should note that Bikash Malla – who showed a lot of promise during his earlier days – plays for the Army Club now, which has not even been among the top 3 sides in the National League. If the reason to choose these players over the top keeper is to appease someone, the award loses its value.
One more question would come for awarding Nirajan Rayamajhi for the year 2064. Nirajan has been a great servant of Nepali football, he shares the record scoring most international goals for Team Nepal along with Hari Khadka. But for the year in question, national league was not held and Rayamajhi was playing for NRT, which hardly gets to play many tournaments. How many matches did he play to get the award?
Rayamajhi deserves accolades and also awards, for what he has been. But giving it to him for unjustified reasons would only lower the nobility of the player and the award.
Some of players who have played with distinction over these years, like Tashi Tsering, Kumar Thapa, Surendra Tamang and national captain Sagar Thapa, are missing from the list. Their contribution needs to be recognized.
One fact that should make ANFA management happy is that 4 out of 8 awarded players are the product of first batch of ANFA academy. This should be an indicator ANFA takes seriously, and pump in more effort in grooming the players.
And as far as awards are concerned, players should be happy that they're happening, at least…
(PS: The write-up appeared in Yours Truly's weekly sports column - OFFSIDE - in The Kathmandu Post, on 27th August, 2011)
Disclaimer: The picture shown in the post is courtesy:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

National Games: Opportunity, despite Challenges

CPN-UML leader KP Sharma Oli is seen playing Dandi Biyo while inaugurating a Sports Tourism Festival. Circa: April 2011

The news of National Sports Council (NSC) proposing to organize National Games in the first quarter of coming year must have brought back butterflies in the abdomen of the numerous athletes. This normally happens, even to the top players; just before they are take on an opponent in a match. Not necessarily a sign of nervousness, but the stress of approaching duel. Stress, by itself, is not bad.
Seven months away it is, yet some of the players must already be licking their lips at a chance of another round of competitions. For if they're not, they're not worthy of being the athletes we would be proud of. An athlete, like a warrior, should welcome any opportunity of a round of duel.
But for most players in the country, the duels – keeping in mind that our players mostly do well in individual events – are too few and far in between. This is why the National Games holds a lot of importance, especially for the players who are not already representing the nation at international competitions. Almost all the players, barring a few who take sport as a hobby, dream of playing for their country at the top level. And the National Games provide them the stage where they can upstage a present champion; the podium where they announce their coming; the platform where they humiliate the also-rans.
Moreover, the multi-sport jamboree brings in a lot of fanfare, makes the youngsters dream. Dreams of podium finish; Dreams of clinching the honours; Dreams of rising to the occasion; Dreams of pushing themselves harder...
 One should also mention here that the Games are to be held in Far Western region. It should only help develop and nurture sports culture.
And for these reasons, the announcement or proposal – whatever it might be called as of now – has to be lauded.
Having said all these, the challenges are still many. The proposed Games, which are to be held in the far western region, are still not a certainty; it still needs the nod of ministerial cabinet. And in given circumstances, the members of the cabinet are counting hours of being in power, rather than weeks or months.
The players and sport administrators must be keeping their fingers crossed. They must be fighting, in their mind, the possibility of news that the Games are postponed. After all, it has already been done earlier this year.
And even the government gives its nod, some major challenges remain. That of infrastructure. With just over half a year to go, how many grounds – forget stadia or arena – can be built? Even if they are built in a jiffy, what would be the standard of infrastructure? National Games is also to prepare players for international competitions. Would it be possible to guarantee that? Rallying 5 regional sport development bodies and 72 district bodies to focus on the Games is a tough ask by itself, since it is time consuming. And to top all that is a small matter of: Funds. 30 million Rupees has been allocated for infrastructure and you don't need to be a Chartered Accountant to say, "It's not enough."
In an interview to yours truly, right after being nominated for the post of Member Secretary of NSW, Yubraj Lama had spelt out priorities for his tenure. Establishing Sports College topped his agenda, while regularizing multi-sport competitions (like National Games) and resolving conflict between sport bodies (like Nepal Olympic Committee and other associations) also were on his list, as he said.
In the latest announcement of NSC, initiatives have been taken for these areas, by forming committees and taskforces, which might even work.
But those, who are not Lama fans, would term these decisions as populist. They could say that the government will change and his days on the hot seat are numbered. He may not get opportunity to implement them, relieving him of the burden.
So the NSC Member Secretary, Yubraj Lama, must have stressful days ahead. To get permission to organize event, and that too successfully…
But then, as we earlier mentioned – Stress, by itself, is not bad. Let's see how he lives it.

(PS: The write-up appeared in Yours Truly's weekly sports column - OFFSIDE - in The Kathmandu Post, on 13th August, 2011)
Disclaimer: The picture shown in the post is courtesy

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Promise's there: Time to Act!

Many cricket fans, those who favour game's global expansion, would be delighted to see Zimbabwe's re-entry into the Test arena after almost half a decade. The cricket world, especially the non-Test playing countries, must be looking at it with the same interest as they did 19 years ago, when Dave Houghton's amateurs took to the field against India.
This is exactly the moment when Zimbabwe batsman, Tatenda Taibu – who had been in self imposed exile after controversially resigning from the captaincy in 2005 – took the opportunity to tell the world that all is still not well with Zimbabwe Cricket. He said, he spoke out 'as a senior member in the side'.
Tatenda Taibu is one name Nepali cricketers and fans alike, would never forget. He was the one who had stopped our boys' dream run at U-19 Cricket World Cup in 2002, beating Nepal in the final of Plate Championship.
As Nepal U-19 team, led by Prithu Baskota, plays the U-19 World Cup 2012 qualifiers, the memories of Taibu's conquest over our team and our boys' performance in 2002 in New Zealand comes back flashing.
It's because that tournament was a special one for Nepali cricketers and fans. A little less than a decade ago, in that tournament, Nepali Colts, led by Binod Das, announced themselves to the world – as former Sri Lankan Test batsman Roy Dias took the team to New Zealand. Nepali boys had a close loss against English boys then, and were able to beat Pakistan, ranked better than Nepal on any day. This had made Nepali boys a rage in New Zealand, who only knew this country because their favorite son Edmund Hillary was one of the firsts to have climbed Mt Everest.
"How do you play in the mountains," they would ask. "What are you doing in Nepal," then Coach Roy Dias used to be ask.
The questions had helped Nepal being recognized as a cricket country. Perhaps no other non-British colony showed as much promise in cricket. Beating a Test country like Pakistan cannot be a fluke.
Taibu was player of the tournament then, as current Australia batsman Cameron White was the leading runscorer.
Fast forward a decade later, Taibu is a 'senior' batsman for Zimbabwe, and Cameron White is an essential in Australian limited over plans. And our boys, who played alongside them are waiting, for yet another opportunity. 9 years ago, nobody was questioning the talent Binod Das & Co. had. They looked destined to rise and shine. But, despite being on the launchpad, we lost the plot. Maybe we took it too easy, we ignored the essentials, we forgot we had a road to take. Somewhere, we needed cricket administration to be 'smarter' than they showed.
Similar promise has been shown by the team led by Prithu Baskota in the U-19 World Cup Qualifiers this time. How else do you describe a figure of 10 overs, 6 maidens, 9 runs for two wickets, by Bhuvan Karki, followed by overhauling the target with 30 overs to spare, as our boys beat Kenya. It's not only the win, but the way team is playing should give us hope. Despite losses – which have been against the team that have better cricket infrastructure – the wins have been emphatic. The fight has been spot on.
But then, we should not sit on the laurels we get while being termed as promising. For every dream that you see, you have to wake up to realize it. Promises would remain only that, if cricket administration does not remain alert. Boys are doing their bit on the field, authority needs to do theirs. Engaging them in cricket round the year would be important.
In 2006, we won the Plate championship at the U-19 World Cup, our best performance in terms of title so far. Then, Ireland was captained by Eoin Morgan and Sri Lanka was led by Angelo Mathews. Now, Morgan is a vital part of English team and Matthews has shown his worth for Sri Lanka. Our captain in that episode was Kanishka Chaugain. He now lives in US...
(PS: The write-up appeared in Yours Truly's weekly sports column - OFFSIDE - in The Kathmandu Post, on 6th August, 2011)
Disclaimer: The picture shown in the post is courtesy It was published in the The Kathmandu Post.


Monday, August 1, 2011

Following the Royal Takeover

The army began cordoning our office premises at around 9:30 (0445GMT) in the morning, some half an hour ahead of the Royal Proclamation… the state-owned radio and television had already announced that King Gyanendra was going to address the nation. Nothing more than that had been said, except that the King had summoned the then Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and chiefs of security agencies for a Royal audience.

As the group of armymen covered the periphery of the premises, an army major, in his military outfit and a gun, asked for an entry into the television station's newsroom. He politely said that he was here to provide security to the office in case an incident like September 1 occurs (On Sept 1, following the killing of 12 Nepalis in Iraq, there were riots in the city...the rioters had vandalized the office, burning several vehicles and pelting stones on the office building).

All of us, almost the entire news team, watched the Royal Proclamation live on the state owned television. Following the proclamation, the army major asked whether he could visit the control room. By then, the telephone lines were already cut and the cellular phones were cut during the address to the nation itself.

He was promptly shown the studio and news control room of the television station. A lot of confusion had already been created with the announcement of emergency, following the sacking of the then government. A lot of fundamental rights were suspended with the announcement.

The following rights have been suspended:

  • Freedom of opinion and expression
  • Freedom to assemble peacefully and without arms
  • Freedom to form unions and associations
  • Press and Publication Rights
  • Rights against preventive detention
  • Right to information
  • Right to property
  • Right to privacy
  • Right to constitutional remedy through writ jurisdiction (Writs like mandamus, certiorari, prohibition and quo warranto), except habeas corpus

As a matter of fact, not many of us knew what line to follow as far as the news was concerned. So one of the bulletin spot was used to re-telecast the proclamation. In the following bulletin, all the scripts were screened by the Army major. An armed army man was present within the news control room throughout the bulletin. The screening continued throughout the day, including all the bulletins. The same was the case with all of our daily publications and the FM radio news. The armymen
cordoned the premises throughout the night.

The following day, King announced a cabinet of ministers. So we prepared a report on all the cabinet members, which included their positions. Incidentally, the report also talked about the ministers holding some important positions during the Panchayat regime (the non-party political system, which was overthrown by the popular movement in 1990). That news, aired at 1200 local time, was said to be bold under the prevailing circumstances. The army major told us that the news should not go in the format written and those parts had to be deleted from it. So those parts
were removed in our subsequent bulletins.

The same day, we had aired an international news, which had it that the Marxist guerrillas had killed 14 Colombian marines, in Colombia. We ran the news in three of our bulletins, starting in the morning. The army major, very polite in his conversations, requested to remove that news as well. The reason: that could be detrimental to our security forces' morale. The word communist had its effect.

The armymen stayed within the premises for three days and the screening went on a regular basis. One of our bulletins had to be aired two minutes late, because the Major had not finished reading the news then. On the third evening, the army left. But before leaving, they cautioned us to follow the guidelines issued by the government while disseminating news. And we have been following that ever since.

An interesting pattern of news had emerged in the whole media. While some papers had editorials on archery, weather and significance of socks, our regular section of vox-pop in the prime time news, called Janamat, had people being asked the importance of fruits in one's diet. While that was being aired, the control room crew had a hearty laugh. That also prompted the news-anchor to smile. Eventually, the chief of news was asked from a certain person close to the Royal Palace (although he did not reveal the identity and name of the person) on why did the news-anchor had that mocking smile on his face, while reading that particular section. Well, perceptions...

[Editor's note: This report was written several days ago and recounts the moment immediately preceding the coup when the military took control of Nepali broadcast facilities prior to the announcement of the coup by King Gyanendra.]

This article, written by yours truly, was published on Radio Free Nepal, an online blog, where articles were published anonymously, following takeover of Executive powers by then King Gyanendra. This article appeared under the headline: An Account from Kantipur TV News Staff on Censoring, on February 19, 2005. 
The reason it has been re-posted here is to remind us, what we have braved in past, so that we do not lose the achievements of Jana Andolan II. 
Picture courtesy: Radio Free Nepal