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Nepal football controversy: Abdullah Al Mutairi forgives players, but isn’t he responsible for a solution?

Abdullah Al Mutairi, who had repeatedly announced that the recently concluded SAFF Championship would be his last show as the Nepal football coach, says he is now ready to sign a new three-year contract to continue working in Nepal.
File: Abdullah Almutairi wants to change the way Nepal plays football.

At a press conference last Thursday, 10 players of the Nepal football team made a serious accusation against their head coach Abdullah Al Mutairi. According to them, the head coach imposed dictatorship in the camp and publicly said that the coach put mental pressure on them.

Then, it was Al Mutairi’s turn to resort to the press and tell his side of the story. On Sunday, he released a letter to the football governing body, ANFA, saying he forgave the players and asked ANFA also not to take action against them.

Without ANFA or the Ministry of Sports probing the controversy, Abdullah Al Mutairi, in his statement, has apparently tried to prove himself innocent and blame the ‘rebel’ players for the Nepal football crisis.

But, is it so?

Attempt to prove innocence

Since the beginning of his tenure as the coach, Abdullah Al Mutairi’s attitude has been questioned and controversy has always revolved around him.
Since the beginning of his tenure as the coach, Abdullah Al Mutairi’s attitude has been questioned and controversy has always revolved around him.

The players say they do not have any issue accepting Abdullah Al Mutairi as their coach. But for now, they say they are not able to bear his misbehaviour, so as a result, they left the camp.  Likewise, the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA), the football governing body, is also disappointed with Al Mutairi’s misbehaviour towards the players when they asked him about the substandard facility in the close camp. 

On the other hand, Al Mutairi is reckoned as one of the most successful coaches in Nepal. During his tenure, Nepal played the final of the SAFF Championship and reached the third round of Asian Cup qualifiers.

Since the beginning of his tenure as the coach, Abdullah Al Mutairi’s attitude has been questioned and controversy has always revolved around him. Although he seems successful on the field, in the dressing room, he is not. 

He has been using social media as a weapon to win the hearts of Nepali football supporters from the very beginning. He has once again tried to show that he is innocent in the eyes of the supporters. For that, he has written a letter to the general secretary of ANFA, Indra Man Tuladhar, requesting him not to take any action against the players he has removed from the team. His letter claims that the players’ decision to quit the camp without prior notice has affected him. 

“Please understand that the unilateral actions of players have hurt me deeply,” reads Abdullah Al Mutairi’s letter. “ Furthermore, I forgive the players for their slanderous remarks against me. I also humbly request you to not punish these players for the mistakes they have committed.”

Contradicting the coach

Nepal football players host a press conference, in Kathmandu, on Thursday, April 28, 2022.
Nepal football players host a press conference, in Kathmandu, on Thursday, April 28, 2022.

Players, on the other hand, have claimed Abdullah Al Mutairi has asked them to return home. Al Mutairi, who wants to establish his superiority by being nice to the players, has stayed silent about the accusation levelled against him by them. Rather than recognising the players’ allegations, he is urging that the authority excuse the players.

Currently, 10 players have stated that they do not wish to be mentored by Al Mutairi. On the other side, the coach has stated those players will not be recalled for the Asian Cup team selection owing to their faults. The coach has already recruited 17 new players and has continued training in an alternative to those 10 players.

The players have demanded an investigation into the issue and a penalty for the perpetrator. It is critical to recognise the perpetrator and take action against him. In this situation, however, the football regulatory body, ANFA, has remained unconcerned.

The election fever 

File: ANFA President Karma Tsering Sherpa among other officials
File: ANFA President Karma Tsering Sherpa among other officials

Since the ANFA’s election is approaching, the officials do not want any controversy, therefore they must remain defensive by being silent. ANFA is obligated to stay unconcerned about Abdullah Al Mutairi’s flaws. They are concerned that Qatar Football Association, Nepal’s primary ally, will be disappointed.

The head coach, who had resigned from the Nepali national team 10 months ago, has extended his contract with the support of the Qatar Football Association. An incident like this, which occurred near the ANFA election date, can have a consequence on Nepali players’ performance in international matches.

Questioning for rights 

While protesting against the misbehaving that Rohit Chand faced, other senior players also went through similar behaviour by the coach. This propelled the players to leave the camp. 
While protesting against the misbehaving that Rohit Chand faced, other senior players also went through similar behaviour by the coach. This propelled the players to leave the camp. 

The current controversy began with senior player Rohit Chand expressing concerns about the ANFA hostel, where national players were accommodated during the Asian Cup qualifier selection procedure. He requested that either the hostel’s facilities be improved or the players be relocated to the hotel. Other players expressed support for his plea as well.

Afterwards, the head coach Abdullah Al Mutairi misbehaved with Chand and sent him home. While protesting against the misbehaving that Chand faced, other senior players also went through similar behaviour by the coach. This propelled the players to leave the camp. 

For a decade, ANFA used to lodge the players in the hostel. According to players, ANFA should be questioned for its mismanagement and substandard facility for the players.   

Six months ago, the Nepali cricket team also witnessed a similar situation.  At that time, during the dispute between players and associations, the coach supported the players. 

But, in the football scene now, ANFA has received flak from different areas for remaining indifferent. 

 Meanwhile, ANFA says it is working out to resolve the issue that surfaced after the charges against Abdullah AL Mutairi. 

“We are holding conversations with both the parties.  Everyone should be flexible from their side. One should strictly fulfil their responsibility,” says Karma Tsering Sherpa, the ANFA president.  

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Timalsina is a sports journalist at Onlinekhabar.

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