| January 19, 2019

ANFA to reinstate suspended officials on June 1

ANFA to reinstate suspended officials on June 1
Troubled football governing body of the country All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) is all set to reinstate four executive committee members it suspended last September on June 1. The decision comes after a written directive from FIFA, the world football governing body and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to reinstate the officials.

The executive committee meeting headed by then ANFA president Ganesh Thapa, who was suspended for 10 years by FIFA last November charging him of misusing position for personal and family gains, had suspended the four ANFA officials - vice presidents Karma Tshering Sherpa, Bijay Narayan Manandhar and Kishor Rai and member Pankaj Bikram Nembang. A big section of the football fraternity believes that the sacking of the officials were personal revenge by then ANFA president Thapa.
FIFA and AFC wrote to ANFA asking it to reinstate the sacked official by May 23, hold executive committee meeting including them and get a replacement for suspended president Ganesh Thapa through election.

In light of this issue, Republica's Prajwal Oli caught up with ANFA Acting President Narendra Shrestha, who also attended a recent FIFA Congress as the head of Nepali delegation in Mexico. Excerpts:

How was your experience at the Mexico FIFA Congress?

This is not the first time that I have participated in the FIFA Congress as the head of Nepali delegation. It was a regular Congress and discussions were focused on few agendas. The funds for member associations were hiked and the decision was approved by the FIFA council. In the past, member associations used to get $ 250,000 besides goal projects on an annual basis. But the member associations will now onward receive $ 1.5 million on a four-year basis. However, the amount should be spent on various titles including development, grassroots, women's football, infrastructures and others.

What is your roadmap for the development of country's football as an acting president?

We have a clear roadmap. We were recently crowned champions of two international football tournaments (SAG men's football and Bangabandu Gold Cup) after a long gap and we will leave no stone unturned to give continuity to those achievements. For this purpose, we have hired Japanese coach on our own expense and technical director from Japan under the assistance of Japan Football Association. Currently, we don't have any commitments to the clubs. Thus we are planning to provide regular training to national players and at least organize one international friendly match each month. Hosting the match at home would be a bonus for us, but we currently don't have infrastructure. Thus, the national team played a friendly against Laos tomorrow on Sunday as per our roadmap. We want the national team to have regular training. The AFC is planning to hold a new tournament in October for countries like Nepal that have not qualified for the Asia Cup. We have set our eyes on that tournament and also for our international commitments of 2017.

We are also focused on conducting development courses. We recently concluded the AFC C License coaching course which was held for the first time in the country.

Besides this, we will make financial transactions transparent, give more priority to grassroots football, continue football academies, create infrastructure if possible and maintain the existing infrastructure, and run activities as per our annual calendar.

We should make achievable plans and not think of playing in the World Cup at this stage. We recently won gold in men's football at the South Asian Games and we need to target winning SAFF Championship next.

There are two factions in ANFA - the establishment and the rebel - after the four executive members were suspended. How would you fix it?

The factionalism at ANFA will end once the suspended officials will be reinstated. We will go as per the instruction of FIFA and AFC and reinstate them through executive committee meeting scheduled for June 1 since it is the only legitimate way to reinstate them. The FIFA and AFC had asked us to reinstate them by May 23 but we needed at least 14 days' time to call the executive committee meeting. We explained our difficulty to FIFA and AFC officials in the sideline of the Mexico Congress. We proposed to hold the meeting on June 1 and they gave us written approval for that. However, we have a condition for reinstating them that they withdraw the case filed at Patan Appellate Court.

The next executive committee meeting, which will also include the reinstated officials, will decide about the date for the annual general assembly and also for the elections for various positions.

But the blame they laid on the institution (ANFA) - corruption, non-transparency, and others - have all been cleared by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA). I think that they must now realize that the blame they made were wrong and baseless.

But the blame was proved and then president Ganesh Thapa was handed 10 years suspension by FIFA and AFC charging him of corruption. There is also no financial regulation at the ANFA which runs transactions worth millions annually. What do you say about these issues?

No, they (sacked officials) had voiced against the institution and let's not go to personal matter about Ganesh Thapa. We have already made a draft of financial regulations but it is yet to be approved by the general assembly. But we present financial details every year in the annual general assembly and also present the audit report of the previous year and the estimated budget for the next year. We submit the audit report to the National Sports Council (NSC) and Ministry of Youth and Sports. Thus there is no question of non-transparency and what should we do to make it transparent? But we could not have any annual general assembly after 2070.

Is ANFA still under the shadow of Ganesh Thapa? Does he have kind of influence over ANFA?

I can say that I am free from any kind of influence from Ganesh Thapa. I meet him very rarely, and those include during social gatherings. He has a different line now. He is busy in social service and politics. He even doesn't want to talk about football now and I don't think it is necessary to discuss things with him. It is natural for the people to point me as an aide of Thapa since we have worked together for 25 years. But he doesn't have any kind of influence at ANFA. I have been working independently at ANFA and we take collective, rather than individual, decision after discussions with friends.

But many say ANFA runs as per the instructions of Thapa and you even hold meetings at his residence.

It is false and I have not entered his residence since he left ANFA. People can say anything, but I challenge them to prove this. However, I won't say I have not met him. We have worked together for so long and he is still a good friend of mine. I have not even telephoned him since long time and he must be unhappy about this. And I don't entertain any kind of interference.

But Thapa is still using ANFA resources (car), isn't he?

Using ANFA vehicle is a minor issue. He is the suspended president of ANFA. We think he must still be allowed to use some facilities of ANFA. The car can be brought back any moment and it is not a big deal. He still has the rights to appeal against the FIFA verdict at the Court of Arbitration of Sports (CAS) and he has said he will file case there. He would himself resign or take some concrete steps following the decision of the CAS.

FIFA however has pointed Thapa 'corrupt' and relieved him of his duty. How could you allow him to use ANFA resources?

There are still chances for him to prove that he was not involved in wrongdoings. The CAS could still give him a clean chit. Former AFC chief Mohammed bin Hammam was given clean chit by FIFA. I am acting president means he is the suspended president. It does not make big difference if he uses ANFA vehicle for few days.

What is the role of Gaurav Thapa, the son of Ganesh Thapa, at ANFA?

I have hired him recently at ANFA to look after international affairs since it was difficult for myself to handle it. He is appointed as the head of international department and will deal with all international affairs. He is also a professional and specialist for holding tournaments (competitions). He doesn't come to office regularly and it is not necessary as well. He turns up when required at the office.

It is already more than six months that you are working in the capacity of ANFA chief, but you did not take any steps to end disputes of ANFA and find solution for the four dissident officials. The solution came only after interference from the AFC and FIFA.

We did not see any necessity for including them in the executive committee since they were sacked only until the next annual general assembly. It was a temporary decision just like my appointment as acting chief. The decision needs to be approved by the next general assembly. The general assembly would have decided if the decisions were right or wrong and endorsed or rejected it. They were suspended and sacked after they did not attend four executive committee meetings.

The decision of AFC and FIFA, however, has proved that you were wrong.

Let's not talk about AFC and FIFA because it depends upon how they interpret it. Different judges have different view points on the same thing. They said that the two meetings we called were not legitimate.

Don't you think that the suspension of four officials has created division at ANFA from the very root and is it a challenging job to mend it?

I don't think there is division at ANFA because I have visited around 40 districts after my appointment as acting president. Besides this, the football activities have not been hampered in their absence. We held national league even after the devastating earthquake. The football activities are running smoothly.

You are also tabling the financial, election and other regulations on June 1 meeting, the day you are planning to reinstate the four officials. You could have tabled the agenda in the meeting after including the dissident faction. Don't you think it has given space for them to doubt your intentions?

The CIAA and NSC have wrote to us time and again directing us to draft and implement financial and some other regulations. We will not approve the agendas but only table them for discussions. It is vital to have financial and employee regulations. The regulations will be approved only through the meeting which will include reinstated members of the ANFA. They are only for formality as per the suggestion of our advocate. The meeting which will include them will decide many vital issues including the date of general assembly, the posts for election and others.

As an acting president, when are you planning to hold the general assembly for replacement of Thapa?

Most probably by the end of Bhadra. It needs at least 60 days pre information for holding the general assembly as per our statute. We have not been able to hold general assembly for two years.

Do you consider contesting for ANFA president in the next election?

There are many interested individuals who want to lead ANFA and I am not an exception. But let the date of election be announced first. I will discuss with district associations, A, B and C division clubs, various committees of ANFA and decide accordingly. I have also heard that some individuals from outside the football fraternity also interested in taking the leadership of football. But the general assembly is the supreme body to elect the leader.