ANFA's game of musical chairs

Playing musical chairs is a metaphorical way of describing a situation where people are repeatedly and usually pointlessly shuffled among various positions. It is particularly used to refer to political situations where one leader replaces another, only to be rapidly replaced by somebody else due to instability within the system. This is exactly what seems to be happening within ANFA. ANFA officials seems to be playing musical chairs at all levels - at the management level, at the coaching level and at the player level.

Management Level: So who is playing musical chairs at the management level? 

1. The ANFA hierarchy comprises of the President Ganesh Thapa and four Vice-Presidents - Lalit Krishna Shrestha, Kishor Rai, Karma Tsering Sherpa and Bijaya Narayan Manandhar. Unfortunately, there is no unity among the top brassAs of now, three of the four VPs are on the outer and have lodged official complaints againt the ANFA President both with FIFA and the National Sports Council of Nepal. Only Lalit Krishna Shrestha supports the President and is the current acting President of ANFA for a period of two months while investigations against ANFA continue. How can an organization function properly when the top brass do not see eye to eye?

2. The current appointment of individuals to posts on the ANFA Executive Committee represents a conflict of interest. Lalit Krishna Shrestha who is the first Vice President of ANFA is also the President of Three Star Club, one of the biggest clubs in Nepal. Similarly, Upendra Man Singh, the current Technical Director is the President of Madhyapur Youth Association (MYA) Club. In the event of a disagreement between ANFA and the clubs, will Lalit Krishna Shrestha and Upendra Man Singh support ANFA or their club? When negotiating deals with the clubs, will they have the best interests of ANFA or the clubs?

3. The members on the Executive Committee seem to be juggling too many jobs. Lalit Krishna Shrestha is the Vice President of ANFA, the President of Three Star Club and the Team Manager of the Nepali team. Why is the VP of ANFA the team manager as well? Does the Nepali National Team need a team manager? If so, does it need a dedicated one? On the latest trip to Qatar for the friendly match against Philippines, Rabindra Joshi has been appointed the team manager. His official position at ANFA is that of Assistant Treasurer. He is also the current acting treasurer after Treasurer Birat Jung Shahi had to step down for a period of two months. 

4. There seems to be no transparency in senior appointments. In recent times, the ANFA President has repeatedly said that ANFA was hiring a new Technical Director from Japan as a replacement for the previous Technical Director Krishna Thapa who stepped down from the job. But it now seems that ANFA has made an internal appointment to the post and FIFA has been notified about it. The FIFA website has updated the details about Nepal and lists Upendra Singh as Technical Director. But there is no official announcement of this by ANFA. The post of Technical Director is a very important and mandatory post. What was the process adopted by ANFA in appointing Upendra Singh? Is this a long-term appointment or just a temporary appointment to keep FIFA satisfied? Similarly, what is the process for appointment of the coaching staff. It is standard practice to appoint a selection committee who then makes the selection or does the President decide on his own whim? 

Coaching Level: ANFA is playing musical chairs with the coaching staff of the Nepali national team. 

1. The coaching appointments are not made with a long term vision. Jack Stefanowski is the current coach of the Nepal team. He was appointed in January 2013 as the head coach for a year with Richard Orlowski as his assistant. However, both left at the end of 2013 because ANFA decided not to renew their contracts. But in May 2014, Jack Stefanowski was reappointed as the head coach for a 1 year. In the past five months since he has taken charge, he has had two assistant coaches - Upendra Man Singh and Hari Khadka. In the interim period, Raju Shakya, one of Nepal's most experience coaches was senior coach for two matches against Yemen and Philippines. Jack has repeatedly said that he is preparing for the SAFF Championships next year. But how much can he achieve in terms of player development till then? What will happen if Nepal fails to perform well in the SAFF Championship? What is expected of Nepal in the SAFF Championship? Does ANFA expect Nepal to win it? Or atleast come second? Or third? What does the Nepali team have to achieve for Jack Stefanowski to get a contract extension? 

2. Some people have too many posts while others have none. As an example, Upendra Man Singh is the current technical director of ANFA. But he has also held several other positions this year including ANFA Academy Under-15 coach, goal-keeping coach and assistant coach of the Nepal senior team under Raju Shakya (for the Nepal-Philippines clash on April 11, 2014 and Nepal-Yemen clash in March 20, 2014) and Jack Stefanowski (for the Nepal-Indonesia clash on June 25, 2014). He has also served as special goal keeping coach for the U-17 team. Now he is the technical director. All these appointments have been made in the past 10 months. While he is the current technical director, it is not clear if his appointment is a long term strategic appointment or just a temporary appointment. Traditionally, ANFA appointments to coaching positions seem to be made on seniority basis. If that was the case, Raju Shakya should have been appointed Technical Director. I am basing this on previous appointments - Krishna Thapa was technical director and Bhim Thapa before him, both are senior coaches of Nepal. The question for ANFA is how can a person do his job properly if he has to juggle between so many jobs? Also, why do some officials have no jobs - Raju Shakya is currently not handling any of the senior or junior national teams. Nor is he assisting Jack Stefanowski.

3. Is the right person being appointed to the right job. Ritesh Thapa is the current goal keeping coach for the senior team. Ironically, he has been the second choice goal keeper to Kiran Chemjong in recent years. Ritesh Thapa is 30 years old and goal keepers are supposed to peak around this age. If he is no longer getting selected as the Number 1 or 2 goal keeper, it means that Kiran Chemjong and Bikash Kuthu, the current number 2, are probably better than him. If that is the case, what can Ritesh help them with? He was appointed goal keeping coach immediately after being dropped from the national team this year. Does he have sufficient coaching experience to coach the senior goal keepers? Shouldn't Upendra Man Singh be handling this job? Is Upendra Man Singh capable of fulfilling the role of Technical Director? 
  
How can a team improve its performance if there is no stability in the coaching structure? How can it improve if the right man is not appointed to the right job? What can a coach (foreign or local) achieve in 6-12 months? Is there a long term vision for ANFA? 

Player Selection: Lastly, the players are also having to play musical chairs.

1. Of the forty players called up for national team selection, ten were from Three Star Club and ten from Manang Marshyangdi Club. Six players were from the U-16 team and do not belong to any professional club. Only fourteen players came from the remaining clubs. Thirteen clubs participated in the Red Bull Martyr's Memorial 'A' Division League last season. Twenty players called up for the national team selection came from two clubs and fourteen players came from the remaining eleven clubs. What does this say about the state of the National League and the selection process? What does it say about the quality of the teams across the league? What hope do players from outside ANFA academy, MMC and Three Start have of getting selected to the national team? Does ANFA have any plans in place for equalisation of the teams so that there is a viable sustainable competition going into the future? Highly unlikely...

2. Head Coach Jack Stefanowski did not field Ashim Jung Karki, NCell Player of the Tournament 2013, and Karna Limbu, Redbull A Division League's best striker in the match against Philippines. He did give several of the U-17 stars an opportunity by why was Karna Limbu ignored? Why does the best player of the league not get a chance to play a single minute of the match? 

Given the current situation within ANFA, I do not see the Nepali national team achieving much success if things remain status quo. ANFA needs change - at the management level, at the coaching level and at the player level

On a positive note, change is happening at the player level. A number of under-17 players are getting chances in the senior team. If ANFA dedicates sufficient resources towards the development of these players, we can potentially achieve good results in the SAFF championships in the next 4-5 years. In the mean time, ANFA has to come up with a 5 year plan and appoint coaching staff accordingly. It probably needs to start looking for a new captain as well. Sagar Thapa is 30  years old and probably past his prime. Has ANFA identified any potential captains? Has ANFA given any thought into the coaching structure? Personally, I don't think that hiring a foreign coach necessarily improves the performance of the national team unless he is given sufficient time to improve the team. The immediate improvement might be in terms of professionalism within the team - but in terms of skill, the Nepali coaches are probably comparable with the foreign coaches ANFA hires. It might be a better idea to train Nepali coaches and instill some professionalism in them. After all, the U-17 team which is currently the hope of Nepali football is coached by a Nepali coach - Bal Gopal Maharjan, and not a foreign one. 

Finally, and most importantly, ANFA needs a fresh start at the management level. It is the job of the management team to set out the plan and vision for the next 4-5 years and put the right mechanisms in place so that the current U-17 team can fulfil its potential. It is their responsibility to put the programs in place so that the coaches and the players can develop. Unfortunately, the current management team does not seem to have the skills and capabilities, nor the vision necessary to do this. The more unfortunate thing is that there seems to be no easy way to replace them with new officials.   

I am a supporter of Nepali football and wish the best for the national team, but if ANFA continues to play musical chairs, it is not possible to achieve success. To achieve success, ANFA needs to change. But the question is who will bring about this change?