Kathmandu: Nepal’s sports sector, put to sleep by the pandemic, scrambled to return to normalcy in 2021. Athletes from various sports returned to the field, participating in national and international games. Here is a recap of some of the major events that took place in Nepal’s sporting scene in 2021.
Conflict in national Cricket team; Lamichane appointed as a new captain
Nepal’s cricket sector was dragged into controversy after the Cricket Association of Nepal, the governing body decided to take action against four national team players, including Captain Gyanendra Malla, Vice Captain Dipendra Airee, Sompal Kami, and Kamal Singh Airee. This incident took place in December and shocked many.
Captain Malla and Vice Captain Airee were stripped from their duties, and Sandeep Lamichane was appointed as a new captain for the team. Along with Malla and Airee, Sompal Kami and Kamal Singh Airee would not be offered central contracts for the first six months of 2022. The row between players and the governing body started after the four cricketers opened up to the media about their dissatisfaction over the CAN’s decision to grade and allow central contracts to national players in September 2020.
The four players organized a press meet and urged the CAN to rethink their decision. But their demand has not been addressed yet.
Winless performance at ACC U-19
The Nepali national cricket team was knocked out from the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Under-19 Asia Cup as the team could not win any of the matches. They lost against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the first two matches and the last one against Kuwait at ICC Academy Ground No 2 in Dubai on Tuesday.
Lost a chance to play global qualifier
Nepal’s women’s team failed to secure a place in the global qualifier of the world T-20 after their defeat against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the last match of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup Asia Regional Qualifier on November 28.
Six teams including hosts UAE, Kuwait, Malaysia, Nepal, Bhutan, and Hong Kong competed in the qualifier. Among them, only the table topper could proceed for the global qualifier.
Dassanayake reappointed as Nepal’s cricket coach
On December 11, the former national coach of national men’s cricket, Pubudu Dassanayake, considered one of the most successful coaches for Nepal, was reappointed by CAN for a two-year tenure.
Dassanayake, a 51-year old Sri Lanka-born Canadian, had previously worked as the coach of the Nepali national team from 2011-15.
EPL returns back after three years
Everest Premier League, one of Nepal’s top cricketing leagues, was hosted in September, at Tribhuvan University International Cricket Ground. The 2021 iteration of the league, which took place after three years, featured six teams.
Pakistani all-rounder Shahid Afridi also played in the league, representing Kathmandu Kings XI. Chitwan Tigers, under the captainship of Sompal Kami, won the title.
Victory in Three Nations Cup, international title on home soil in 37 years
In March, Nepal won the Three Nations Cup, held in Dashrath Rangasala. This was one of the most remarkable victories, the first international title on home soil for Nepal in 37 years. In the final match, Nepal defeated Bangladesh 2-1.
Similarly, in the group stage of the Cup, Nepal played a goalless draw with both teams, securing a place in the final.
The entire football sector was shaken when Nepal football coach Abdullah Almutairi announced his resignation from his post of national team’s coach through his social media account, in July.
Almutairi wrote, “Dear Nepali Fans … I’m going to ANFA to resign and my resign because of the senior vice president, in the last 3 weeks every day he makes drama to me. I hope you feel happy now Pankaj Nembang [SIC].”
But the coach did not submit a resignation letter to the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA).
Almutairi is beloved among Nepali football fans. Those football fans criticized ANFA, alleging that the association was involved in politicking to oust the coach.
The story did not end here. In October, the coach announced that he will step down after the SAFF championship final. In a post-match conference of the SAFF Championship, after a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh, he announced that he’d resign from the post and would never come back to Nepal.
According to the coach, some media were constantly attacking him. “They were putting the kind of misleading information that would make people angry about me,” he said.
However, the coach could not stick with his decision. In the same month when he decided to resign as head coach of Nepal, he also extended the contract. As per the renewed contract, Almutairi will coach the national team till 2024 end.
“People of Nepal and their true love made me change my mind. Then, I agreed to extend my contract instead of putting in papers,” he said, speaking at a press meet, organized after extending the contract.
‘A’ Division League back in action
The nation’s biggest league Martyr’s Memorial ‘A’ division league was held after a break of two years. Altogether 14 clubs are competing in the league and among them, Satdobato Youth Club is the only promoted one.
For the first time in history, the match of Martyr’s Memorial ‘A’ division league was played outside the valley, in Pokhara Football Stadium. Similarly, the league also organized the match for the first time in floodlight.
Six rounds of the league have already been completed.
National sports council
Silwal on and off
The government in October sacked Ramesh Kumar Silwal from the position of member secretary of the National Sports Council. And in November, the government appointed Tanka Lal Ghising in the vacant position.
Ghising actively started doing his jobs. He even received a memorandum submitted by the Nepal National and International Players Association (NIPA), an umbrella organization of players. But in December things went unexpectedly as the supreme court issued an interim stay order to reinstate Silwal.
If the Supreme Court continues the interim order, Silwal will remain in his position until the final hearing. However, if the Supreme Court upholds the Council of Ministers’ dismissal, he will be relieved of his duties.
Defending champions continue the legacy
The national women’s volleyball team came back home from Bangladesh with joyous news at the end of the year. The defending champions clinched the title of Asian Central Zone Women’s Volleyball Championship by defeating Uzbekistan on Tuesday, December 28.
Six countries—host Bangladesh, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Uzbekistan—had participated under the women’s category in the championship held from December 23.
On the other hand, the men’s team also performed relatively better than the earlier time. They stood at the fourth position in the championship.