The sports sector and fans of the nation, hit badly by COVID-19, have found something to cheer about after the senior national football team a week ago lifted an international trophy ending a 37-year drought of securing an international title at the home soil. The victory is sweeter as the national football team could not play several international fixtures such as the home leg of the World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup Qualifiers owing to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Due to the travel restrictions, the Nepali players’ international participation was rescheduled or postponed several times putting our players and sports at the receiving end.
In such circumstances, the Nepali football's governing body, All Nepal Football Association, decided to organise the Three Nations Cup at Dasarath Stadium to give international exposure to the national squad. Cricket Association of Nepal is also planning to organise the Three Nations T20 series and One Day Series after the national senior men's trilateral series under ICC World Cup League -2 was postponed. The sporting activities at the domestic and international levels came to a complete halt for more than nine months after the outbreak of COVID-19. The fitness of the players has deteriorated and their skills have been worn out owing to a lack of exposure to the competitive matches.
The Nepali football association deserves our praise for successfully holding the event to give our players international match exposure. The tournament helped expose the weakness of national footballers. They were criticised for their lack of depth, creativity and finishing after playing a goalless draw in the league round against Kyrgyzstan U23 and Bangladesh. Noticing the weakness, the national coach made a change in the team formation in the final which ultimately paid off as our team lifted the Three National Cup beating their regional rival Bangladesh by scoring two goals against one. As the cases of COVID-19 went down, the domestic sports tournament started taking place. Players are busy with their schedule as various national level tournaments of volleyball, football, cricket, athletics, and martial arts are in the pipeline. It is good to see players getting busy in domestic sporting events. Participating in the local tournaments will not only help players maintain their fitness and hone their skill, but it would also help them financially. Moreover, the domestic tournaments also help identify new talents, who would replace the aged and retiring players.
However, playing domestic tournaments is not enough if our sports sector wants to witness their players making progress in international sports arenas. The mere victory at tournaments like the Three Nations Cup will not bring overall progress to the Nepali sports. However, organising such invitational and friendly tournaments will without doubt provide a chance to the Nepali sports to grow and flourish to another level. The sports associations with the help of the government should invite strong teams and players from abroad and organise the tournaments to help the local talents learn and hone their skills from the international exposure. As the threat of COVID-19 persists, the government should manage the biosecure bubble to host the tournaments so that the foreign teams and players feel safe to come here and play at our grounds much to the delight of our players and sports fans.