Letter to Upendraman Singh
I am sure you are in a repent mode now, as your latest press statement, as the President of Madhyapur Youth Association has hinted. Yet, you must remember that you gave us a moment we can perhaps never forget as football fans – for all the wrong reasons.
I am sure football fans like me would want to remember you for the feats you’ve achieved being Nepal’s premier custodian for long. Added to that has been your achievements as a coach of Himalayan Sherpa and assistant coach of Nepal, for which you’ve drawn accolades already.
I am sure you had all the right intentions when you grouped the locals of your area in 2006, to kickstart a social club, which eventually turned out to be a football club. It wasn’t easy to climb up to A Division League, in a matter of half a dozen years, that too from scratch. And for that you’ve been hailed, respected and congratulated enough.
But what happened on 23rd of January at Dashrath Stadium does not deserve congratulations, by any means. There is every possibility that the people who came to the stadium would remember you forever for throwing a chair at the person officiating the game – a referee. Add to that the thousands who must have been watching – like yours truly – on a national television broadcast, and effect it had on them. The scenes where you were charging towards the referee, along with other officials of your club would remain in my mind, and perhaps thousands others, for a long time. It might have made a good TV – as controversy sells better than plain information – but for the fans of ‘The Beautiful Game’, it was ugly. And, for somebody who talks, writes and wishes for the development of the game, it hurts.
It hurt to see you being manhandled by the police, right at the ground where you have led Nepal’s national team, as a captain, with pride. It hurt more to know that you had invited the situation all by yourself. One can understand, although it does not justify your actions, that you were unhappy with the appointment of Bikas Mahat as a referee for the match. But you must remember that players have a duty to fans, of being role models. And you are one person who has risen above the ranks, by virtue of your football skills. If you’re unhappy with referee’s decision, there is a due process to complain.
You might as well recall, there were hardly any supporter for Zinedine Zidane, when he headbutted Marco Materrazi during World Cup 2006. His greatness took a nosedive, and he was shunned by everyone, although we knew it was Materazzi who had instigated Zidane.
I had some interesting discussions with you, during Kantipur Television’s special show during World Cup 2010, when together we analyzed teams, matches and were able to aware our viewers about the technical aspects of the game. I had been impressed with your knowledge of the game, as you made me believe that there were good students of the game, even in this generation. For all your knowledge and belief in discipline, it amazes me that it was the same person on TV, again, but starkly different. It was a story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde playing for real. As you let Mr Hyde come out of you, I was tempted to ask: Why?
It also worries me that people are now asking: With the given indiscipline shown by the Club President and Coach, did Madhyapur deserve to be in the top flight? What if the entire team starts showing the same character? Football fans, especially Madhyapur fans would be less worried about being relegated to B Division, than have their team called ‘Shame of Nepali Football’.
I had read somewhere, ‘Sports does not build character: It merely reveals it’. And now I know it is true. So, my dear goalie (that’s how I’d like to remember you still), you started a good campaign, trying to build a club with sound academy structure. I hope your focus would be on building characters of the youngsters that want to take up football.
A football fan
(PS: The write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 26th Jan, 2013)