Rupak Memorial Awards: A shot misfired?

Somesh


All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) awarded 12 of its prized possessions this week. Since it started, Rupak Memorial Awards have held its position in Nepali football. And it would have saddened former national captain and FIFA referee Rupak Sharma – who passed away in an unfortunate accident – to see that the award was discontinued for some years.
For restarting the awards, ANFA deserves a pat on its back. Restarting a discontinued event to an organization is akin to a player trying to force his way back into the game after injury. It’s a mental fight, which gets tougher by every passing day. And ANFA should be lauded. After all, these prizes are what makes the players struggle harder, compete better.
However, much as the restart needs to be congratulated, it should be critically viewed. There are some chinks in the whole episode that should not be ignored and if not corrected in time, would neither improve ANFA’s image nor its working style. Some questions would demand answer.
The first of them being, how can we have two best players for every year? The awards are constituted to felicitate excellence and unless the real best is awarded, the whole purpose is lost. It is easy to select two each year as it gives selectors easier option of not leaving the second best; but it compromises the dignity of awards. The merit of awards comes under scrutiny. Mind you, it has not come as exception but general rule. Second bests are second bests, no matter how good they are. Silver medalists are never termed champions.
It would be sad to know that ANFA, or the selection team headed by former national coach Bhim Thapa selected two players for each year, just to please everyone. But awards are not meant for keeping everyone happy. It is to honor and inspire excellence. Short cuts should not be preferred.
The other question that could pop up to an inquisitive mind, would be: How were Bikash Malla and Ritesh Thapa named the best players of the year gone by. Now the point of argument should not be mistaken here. It is not to diminish the service they have provided to Nepali football. They have, to the best of their capability, done a good job under the bars.
But the point here is, both these players are not the first choice goalkeeper for the national team. It is Kiran Chemjong, who has pushed his way as the number one keeper in Nepal. And his name was missing from the list. How can the top one be left out and two second bests are honored? We should note that Bikash Malla – who showed a lot of promise during his earlier days – plays for the Army Club now, which has not even been among the top 3 sides in the National League. If the reason to choose these players over the top keeper is to appease someone, the award loses its value.
One more question would come for awarding Nirajan Rayamajhi for the year 2064. Nirajan has been a great servant of Nepali football, he shares the record scoring most international goals for Team Nepal along with Hari Khadka. But for the year in question, national league was not held and Rayamajhi was playing for NRT, which hardly gets to play many tournaments. How many matches did he play to get the award?
Rayamajhi deserves accolades and also awards, for what he has been. But giving it to him for unjustified reasons would only lower the nobility of the player and the award.
Some of players who have played with distinction over these years, like Tashi Tsering, Kumar Thapa, Surendra Tamang and national captain Sagar Thapa, are missing from the list. Their contribution needs to be recognized.
One fact that should make ANFA management happy is that 4 out of 8 awarded players are the product of first batch of ANFA academy. This should be an indicator ANFA takes seriously, and pump in more effort in grooming the players.
And as far as awards are concerned, players should be happy that they’re happening, at least…
(PS: The write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly sports column – OFFSIDE – in The Kathmandu Post, on 27th August, 2011)
Disclaimer: The picture shown in the post is courtesy: www.myrepublica.com

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