Country’s football stadiums cry out for care


Kathmandu, May 8: Since February, Nepal’s only international-level football stadium has been disallowed to host international matches by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC). Along with the decision, Nepal was stripped of the responsibility of hosting Bahrain during the second round of FIFA World Cup Asia Qualifiers.

Nepalis were unhappy for not being able to cheer on the national team in the home match by thronging Dasharath Rangasala. Meanwhile, the mass dissatisfaction led the Ministry of Youth and Sports to strictly direct the National Sports Council (NSC) and All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) to maintain the standard of the stadium.

However, in more than two months, neither the directive has been prepared nor has Dasharath Rangasala been renovated sufficiently to revoke the suspension and host the UAE in June.

“The AFC has shown reservations on three issues – safety, floodlight and pitch. Under safety, the AFC is trying to ensure whether the stadium can withstand the crowd at full capacity or not and if the crowd can be evacuated safely in crisis,” informed Suresh Shah, spokesperson for ANFA.

Similarly, the AFC has stressed that the floodlight in Dasharath Rangasala has not met the standards. Nevertheless, the AFC is equally concerned regarding the condition of the football pitch.

“We have sent engineering reports on the stadium to the AFC officials. We are not liable to organise the match against the UAE at night only; thus, the floodlight is not a major issue. We have been repairing the ground to meet the standards as well,” Shah added.

According to Shah, the ANFA is eager to organise the second leg against the UAE in Nepal. 

However, Dasharath Rangasala is not likely to be fit, to uplift the suspension and welcome thousands of Nepali fans in the second-leg match against the UAE on June 6. 

After the suspension of Dasharath Rangasala, Nepali fans blamed the authorities for organising non-sporting events at the ground and deteriorating the pitch. It was then that Minister for Youth and Sports Biraj Bhakta Shrestha, who was new in the office, called the attention of the Council and directed the authority to prepare a directive on stadium operation by issuing a statement on March 15.

“The directive is a major need of the time as Dasharath Rangasala is not the only stadium facing deterioration” said Shanti Bahadur Basnet, under-secretary at the Sports Promotion Section of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Unclear laws

Nepal has a good number of football stadiums and grounds across the country. However, unclear laws after federalism have affected the protection and conservation of such infrastructures.

“There are two major football stadiums in Koshi: Sahid Rangasala in Biratnagar and Regional Rangasala in Itahari. However, they are not taken care of properly due to a lack of clarity. It is uncertain if the stadiums fall under the federal authority or the respective province or local level’s jurisdiction,” said Binod Pandey, the sixth-level officer at the Koshi Sports Development Board.

While Itahari’s stadium hosts the Itahari Gold Cup annually, Biratnagar’s Sahid Rangasala hosts the Birat Gold Cup. According to the local organisers of the tournaments, the two stadiums are left unattended throughout the year.

“Biratnagar Metropolitan City has rented out shops around the stadium. The Metropolis collects the rent but does not invest it in the stadium’s repair and maintenance. While preparing for this year’s gold cup last month, we found that the metropolis has not paid the electricity bill for using the floodlights,” said Kishor Shahi, chairman of Birat Gold Cup Trust, the organiser of Birat Gold Cup.  

The Birat Gold Cup organisers were busy removing grass from the parapet and maintaining the grass on the ground before the tournament. Sahid Rangasala can accommodate 5,000 viewers. 

Likewise, Rashtriya Jagriti Club members, who are the organisers of the Itahari Gold Cup, were also struggling to remove bushes from the parapet and ground at the regional stadium which can accommodate 10,000 viewers.

“Itahari Sub-Metropolis does not care about the stadium much. We take care of the stadium with the available resources and manpower. However, it is insufficient as a stadium needs better care from experts,” Club’s member Rabin Gautam said.

According to the prevailing laws, a stadium, as per its categorisation, should be taken care of by the respective government. 

“The stadiums across the country have not been categorised since federalism was opted,” said Shiva Prasad Regmi, spokesperson at the Ministry. Regmi added, “The Council has been directed to categorise the stadiums.”

Meanwhile, the Council informed that they have collected details of stadiums throughout the country but the categorisation process was not finalised.

“The stadiums have not been categorised yet as the details are being studied. We are also preparing the directive for stadium operation,” said Khusharaj Dahal, NSC’s information officer.

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