By 2030, Nepal will be in the center of the world, between the world’s biggest projected economy, China and the 3rd biggest, India. To take advantage of this immense opportunity or survive the burden whichever you prefer to call, we will have to start being recognized as a sovereign nation of excellence with its unique successes and not a cold, dark, impoverished shadow of its two giant neighbors. In one sentence, Nepal needs to be a ‘soft-power”.
Wikipedia defines Soft power as the ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction. One way Nepal can work towards a soft-power state and influence its neighbors and the rest of the world is by proving that we are a center of excellence (at things the rest of the world finds extremely appealing or attractive). And a way to do this is by competing with the world and excelling on the highest level. I believe, one of the best ways we can start our claim as a soft-power is by enabling Nepal to qualify for the FIFA men’s world cup of 2030 and the women’s in 2031. ( Dear fellow cricket fans, do consider this article as a parallel strategy that could in many ways enable our national cricket team to excel in the ICC world cup in the near future).
So how will Nepal reach the FIFA World Cup in 2030 which is only 12 years from now?
Let’s do our maths first. Nepal is in 116 th place in World Football ranking right now. To qualify in 2030, It will have to be in the top 48 teams that qualify in the world cup of 2030. And rom Asia, Nepal will have to be sneak in the projected quota of one of the eight nations to qualify. Also, alternatively to automatically qualify to play in world cup of 2030 qualification, Nepal should team up with India and Bangladesh to jointly host the world cup of 2030.
So let’s imagine this scenario (roadmap) to Nepal playing in the world cup 2030! In the world cup in Russia in 2018 brought millions of Nepali together, who passionately watched that enthralling world cup and enthusiastically supported different nations (that many had never been to or even heard of before). Throughout the tournament, we bought jerseys from all these footballing nations and placed friendly bets against each other and cheered on these countries we had never been to. Yet deep within, each of us carried this sadness and hollowness. All of us carried a lingering question in our heart,, “When will Nepal reach the world cup so that we all Nepalis can unite under our proud Red and Blue team?”
Nepal’s new super-majority government sees this immense national craving to regain the loss of self dignity and unity eroded immensely through the last few decades of country’s mismanagement. It grabs this opportunity to rally the nation by daring a lofty goal of Nepal reaching the world cup in the next dozen years and putting Nepal on the world map. Many cynics immediately scoff at this outrageous dare. To make sure this doesn’t remain a “guff-gaff”, the government immediately brings together social, entrepreneurial and political leaders to discuss on a roadmap to put Nepal on the world cup by 2030 A.D. Nepal’s leadership inspired from the success story of 1960’s era American leadership’s determination to put a person on the moon in 10 years, also takes an unusual step of starting a month-long participatory brainstorming between sports enthusiasts, policy makers, bureaucracy and local leaders from all over Nepal, while also involving kids to their grandparents in various deliberative decision-making process which results in a 10 point roadmap to take Nepal to the FIFA world cup.
- Infrastructure: All 7 States immediately starts preparation to immediately build 7 regional football stadium facilities with state of the art training ecosystems around it, finishing them in the next 24 months. These stadiums are built on a scalable architecture to upgrade into world-class stadiums by 2030) It starts recruiting many of the same Nepali engineers and workers who are already building and finishing up the top-quality world cup stadiums in Qatar for World cup in 2022. They come together to co-own the construction companies that will build these stadiums. These businesses will collaborate with some of the top football construction companies of the world to complete these 7 stadiums in record time. One specific stadium is built in high altitude (3000 meters +) low oxygen areas, so that just like how Sherpas excelled in mountain climbing, an entire new generation of young Nepali footballers can practise to be faster and with more stamina than their world class competitors in the next dozen years. Its exotic destination also serves to promote high altitude mountain football tourism. Nepal develops a unique stadium model that can regularly morph from a football stadium onto cricket and other sports stadium through its pioneering “multi-use” architectural framework.
- Diplomacy: The prime-minister of Nepal approaches the leaders of India and Bangladesh to consider jointly bid for the 2030 A.D world cup. Sensing a similar opportunity to shine in the world, all three neighbors hold a special summit and create a well funded crack team of diplomats, lobbyists and branding teams to make sure they win the bid for 2030 World cup within the next 4 years. The same team will also lobby to host the Women World cup of 2031 A.D.
- Talent: A talent scouting and coaching team is bought from one of the Footballing powerhouses like Germany, England, Belgium, Italy, France, Spain, Brazil, Argentina to immediately identify hundreds of pre-teens and early teenagers from all over Nepal. Recruitment will be for both men and women teams (and even co-ed teams are encouraged at many levels). The focus will be equally on reaching world cup for men and women alike. A “Reach World cup 2030” campaign will start with middle and high schools all over Nepal. They will train and mobilize school children to be the heart and soul of this campaign.
- Institutions: A “Football unites Nepal” FUN multi-tiered League is institutionalized as an public private partnership by inviting professional local and international football management companies to govern and expand quickly. This Public/Private partnership will taken into an IPO (stock market) within the next 5 years to sustain the popularity among 30 million Nepalis and 300+ million North+East Indian and Bangladeshi population, just south of the border and many millions more on the north. Starting from 2020, various layers of well funded football competitions become a norm in Nepal. A Division 1 league where best 2 teams from each of the 7 state teams play with each other. Division 2 will have top registered clubs from 77 districts will play each other. Under 20, Under 16 and Under 12 competitions will start to take shape. Also an international football tournament will be started from 2023 A.D where Asia level tournaments will be hosted in Nepal.
- Governance : An autonomous special executive board of “Nepal 2030 Commission” starts working under the oversight of the prime-minister and 7 states leadership. It uses broad, efficient power to prepare Nepal to even host 2030 World cup. A zero tolerance sports corruption bill – ‘Nepal World Cup 2030’ bill passes in the federal and state parliaments strictly enforcing excellence in sports and punishing harshly any undue political and other interference, both financial and mental corruption in sports. Showing that the state means business, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority, CIAA is empowered with nationally renowned commissioners of the highest integrity and incorruptibility. In 2019, a special sport corruption court, quickly sentences 20 years of hard labor to a few high-ranking crony sports officials and politicians for abetting massive corruption in sports in the past. All prisoners sentenced through this court, do hard labor by building sports training facilities in high schools all over Nepal. Talk about irony!
- Exposure: Top clubs from Europe and other major footballing nations are brought in every year to play with top local clubs of Nepal and promote football tourism in Nepal. The government working with international sports entrepreneurs build a decade strong Sports tourism as a niche market. Nepal is known as a première destination that offers its guests to play football at exotic destinations. Building upon that other sports including cricket and extreme sports also gain prominence because of Nepal’s uniquely varied topography. Various sports personalities from inside Nepal and all over the world are recruited to act as Nepal 2030 World Cup Football ambassadors. Special incentives are given to globally renowned football stars of the past and present, from Pele to Maradona to Mia hamm to engage in lobbying for Nepal range from giving honorary citizenships to incentivizing them in various sports and tourism related entrepreneurial activities in Nepal. Even some 4000 meter + mountains y after few of them.
- Sustainability: Starting from 2019 A.D, for the next 12 years, the government adds 5 % VAT to the current VAT of 13% which becomes known as the “FUN tax” to sustain this enormous effort. This amounts to a projected 110 Billion rupees a year (US $1 Billion in 2019). Operational expenses are also generated from from ticketing, media rights and merchandising. A special “Death tax” of 100% will be envisioned on products that hamper personal hygiene and health, from cigarettes to to hard drinks to junk food and sugary drinks that speed up obesity and diabetes. The amount raised will be directly transferred to a special “2030 Sports welfare fund” to be invested and used for the all-round welfare of all Nepalis who take upon sports as a profession and education.
- Fair play culture: The Nepali football will truly carry the spirit of “No touch football” espousing “Foul-free fair play” and in 2030’s world cup Nepal will aim to win the “Fair play award” inspiring how you can play the fairest, gentlest and foul free game while making world class football as fair and beautiful as never, humbling other world-class teams to start copying this attitude. Nepal’s empathetic, calm and poised football teams will long be known as “the buddhas of football”! This attitude are instilled right from pre-teenagers through morphing of moral and sports education. ‘Fair play’ clubs in schools permeate to other disciplines too. And by 2030, its effect has started seeing in the actions of many nation’s new generation local-state-central leadership who count on “fair play” as one of its core values.
- Media: With the intention of creating history in 2030, Media focuses its effort to make sure local football management, administration and politics reaches the global Nepali audiences. Leading civil society, it holds the government accountable and efficient in its management of this mega-campaign. Simultaneously, it ensures that the global media gain easy access to view Nepal’s national and international league games. Regular local and national footballing news in Nepal reach all corners of Nepal. Football icons will gain more limelight and trust than politicians within a decade. And future leaders for Nepal will arise from those who excel at leadership and management through football.
- Society: Nepali parents are persistently indoctrinated to see their children’s future in sport. Sports and its related entrepreneurial ventures and professions along with government security and insurance ensures that this profession becomes a practical investment in a nepali parent’s mind. Every child starts dreaming to become a sports person or an entrepreneur ! The undisputed age of becoming a doctor and engineer is now challenged!
By 2025 A.D, Nepal flexes its muscles by defeating its south asian neighbors second time in a row.. By 2028 It wins the Asian cup, alerting Asia of its prowess. Then Nepal starts preparing its best footballers in high altitude stadiums of Nepal to build a mentally and physically world class footballers capable of being a collective center of excellence.
Finally the summer of 2030 arrives and that fine day in the world cup of 2030, Nepal team in its traditional “red and blue” marches to a 70,000 packed stadium to play its first game in the World cup. The entire stadium roars with tens of thousands of Nepali fans along with Nepal’s leadership discreetly joining them in the stands. They all for the first time chant their “Rato ra Chandra Surya” slogans repeatedly to rally their young team in world cup who are already creating history! As the national song of Nepal plays, “Saya thunga fuul ka haami, eutai maala nepali… ”, tens of millions of Nepali all around the world, from young students to grannies, all are standing up with their hands on their hearts, singing and tearing up in front of their TV- smartphones-billboards all over Nepal. History has just been created and a sense of feeling permeates over all of us with the thought of our nation’s entry as a “soft power” and a center of ‘excellence’!
As the national song of Nepal comes to a close on a rousing note “… … Jay Jay Nepal !!! ”, the world starts to finally whisper,
“Yes, Nepal has truly awakened!”