Football season is in full swing in Nepal. Despite the national team’s dismal record in international tournaments, there is no love lost for the world’s most popular sport in this part of the world.
Football continues to thrive and draw incredible support across the kingdom. More importantly football fans’ passion, zeal and enthusiasm for the sport remain intact. The community support for every tournament small or big has been crucial.
Apparently, there is widespread disillusionment with the state of Nepali football, but that does not seem to have deterred young aspirants from playing the game.
In recent years a bevy of highly talented players have emerged but not all have been fortunate enough to get the breakthrough. On the other hand, some of the real lucky ones have found permanent teams, and they have been able to advance their career at the same time.
Presently there is a string of football tournaments taking place in every nook and canary of the kingdom, and that is very heartening and encouraging.
Any national level tournament is a perfect launch pad for hidden talents in and around the area who are desperately seeking exposure and limelight to showcase their potential.
There is no dearth of such tournaments in the country. The latest to make it to the long list is Bhojpur Gold Cup. There was a time when tournaments could be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Budha Subba Gold Cup(Dharan), Aaha Gold Cup(Pokhara), Tillotama Gold Cup( Bhairawa) , Simara Gold Cup ( Simara), Amatya Gold Cup (Birganj) and Ithari Gold Cu(Ithari) are some of the newly established tournaments held with regularity.
It is just hard to believe so many tournaments are taking place each year; however, the big question is about giving quality and continuity to it. I fully comprehend the challenges faced by organizers in terms of finance, sponsorship and infrastructure.Their efforts must be applauded. Being able to host a tournament in itself is a fine achievement. I do hope they keep up the good work.
Over the years, we have seen some of the most prestigious tournaments either abandoned or put off, and efforts to revive it have gone in vain.
Speaking of such tourneys names like Nara Trophy (zonal tourney), Birthday Cup (Kathmandu), Tribhuvan Challenge Shield (Kathmandu), Martyr’s League (Kathmandu), Tribhuvan Memorial Gold Cup (Bhadrapur) and Mahendra Gold Cup (Biratnagar) instantly comes to my mind.
Apart from its fifty year long, colorful history, the highly respected and prestigious “Mahendra Gold Cup”, the pride of Biratnagar represented the entire Purvanchal football belt. It evoked unprecedented enthusiasm and excitement in the local population and beyond.
The championship roped in the best teams of the country in the likes of Mahendra Police Club, Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation, Boys Union, Sunsari Eleven, Morang Eleven and many more. Then there were outfits from Bhutan and Calcutta.
I vividly remember the rivalry between Mahendra Police Club led by Achyut Kahrel and Bhutan studded with players like Urgen Lama (Mini) and Khare Basnet was one of the regular features of the tournament.
The championship brought in the entire football community in their hundreds to the historical Shahid Maidan each day. A festival atmosphere pervaded the whole industrial city. And one could feel the euphoric excitement in air throughout the competition.
Sadly, one of the country’s oldest tournaments suffered a huge setback, following the political upheaval in the country and was discontinued for a good number of years much to the disappointment of football fans.
Though the tournament was renamed “ Birat Gold Cup” and revived, it has never been like the Old Grand and imposing “Mahendra Gold Cup” that had character, vision , mass appeal and emotional attachment.
That said, I sincerely hope the organizer succeed in their endeavor to fill the void left by “Mahendra Gold Cup”. As I conclude my piece, “Birat Gold Cup” is on the verge of kicking off in the great city of Biratnagar.
By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax, VA
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