AFC tips more tournaments for South Asia nations

South Asian countries are likely to have a busier international schedule in the near future according to the vice-president of the Asian Football Confederation, Mani Lal Fernando. Visiting Nepal, the Media Committee chairman said the AFC is thinking of engaging national sides in more friendly matches. Currently the SAF Football Championship is the only official encounter for the member countries. "We are always struggling in the international level and we need much more exposure," he said, as quoted by the Katmandu Post.

Earlier, Mr Fernando said Nepal has a good chance of co-hosting the 16-nation AFC 'C' Challenge Cup in 2006. ""Bangladesh and India were considered for the championship but now as Nepal has made the bid, we will have to seriously consider it ... The AFC meeting on November 28 will decide the host and the date but I'm optimistic that Nepal is the frontrunner," he said. He also indicated that Nepal's success in youth development will be rewarded by a second FIFA Goal Project, a larger and more decentralised program.

All Nepal Football Association president, Ganesh Thapa, reiterated that a strong domestic league structure and professionalism is a must to enhance the standard of football in the country. "We have to first ensure a competitive status before participating in international tournaments not to mention the financial burden ... [and] ... create some heroes so that they are saleable in the neighboring countries' league," he said.

At a glittering function at the Narayanhiti Royal Palace, Nepal’s King Gyanendra bestowed the Prabal Gorkha Dakshin Bahu award upon AFC president, Mohamed Bin Hammam and Mr Fernando, while Mr Thapa received the Pradiptta Prajatantra Bhaskar award. Mr Bin Hammam, however, couldn’t receive the medal in person as his Kathmandu flight was cancelled due to inclement weather. The awards are in recognition of the trio’s "sterling contribution towards the development of football".

Mr Fernando has since invited Crown Prince Paras to present the gold medal in football in the SA Games, scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka in April 2006.

See also: Nepal proud of its disadvantaged, student players (14 Oct) and Afghanistan joins South Asian Championship (30 Sept)