The whole world, including Nepal, is now in the grips of the World Cup football tournament in Russia. The host country is expected to generate about $30 billion in revenue from the month-long jamboree.
Neither Nepal, or any South Asian country, is participating in the games. Yet we have gone crazy about it, cheering for our favourite teams – in Nepal it tends to be Argentina or Brazil.
But can we at least learn from the game we love to watch and talk about so much? Some of the discussions are quite esoteric. Such as, when Sweden plays Denmark, the first three letters of each team combined becomes Sweden and the remaining letters make up Denmark?
Betting on the games has become quite a trend, even if it is a great way to lose money. Some love to bet and make or lose money. A taxi driver quoted some of the amounts at stake, and it was huge. Restaurants and bars have been cashing in on the games by selling drinks and snacks, and there are attractive discounts if you are able to predict the outcome of each game.
For others, the game offers a lot more. Let us take the word competition, for example, and understand what it really means. There are 22 players on the field. There are rules of the game, and the outcome of the game does not depend on the size of the country, its army, GDP or population.
The only thing that matters is how well the 11 play and how much time, energy, practice and research of the opposite team they have done. The captains lead, the coaches strategise, and then the whole world watches. Is it not amazing, therefore, that Croatia can defeat Argentine 3-0? In previous tournaments Serbia defeated the USA, and Iceland defeated England.
Football has regulators. The referee, the assistants and the nearly 35 cameras help ensure fairness. The fans can be, and are, biased. There is time added at the end of each half to make up for time lost or wasted by players.
Let us transpose this rules-based state of play to Nepal, and the businesses and contractors working here. If players and teams feel there is a foul the referee did not see, they have the option of watching the video replay. Using this technology, a penalty can be awarded.
The much talked about game between Croatia and Argentina provided insight into how we need to manage change. As the saying goes: ‘When the hammer is the only tool you have, every problem begins to look like a nail.’ In the game, it looked like Messi was the only tool they had. But a toolbox consists of a set of implements, not just a hammer.
Secondly, there is a realisation when the goals begin to mount that the ‘goal‘ is not going to change. The rules of the game are not going to change, the field size, the time allocated, and the referee, are all going to remain the same. The 35 cameras are also going to ensure that foul play is unlikely. What needs to change is the way the game is played.
Einstein famously said ‘Insanity is repeating the same process hoping for a different result.’ Is Nepal learning from Argentina, then? Can we rely only on a ‘Messi’ to get us where we need to be? Can we continue to play the same game? Do we need to develop new tools? Is it time to change the way we play?
What Nepali entrepreneurs need is a level playing field where they can compete. They want a regulator who ensures fairness. Whenever there is room for discretionary powers to be misused, they want to see a technological intervention. They also want fans and the glare of the camera when they succeed.
It is also worth mentioning that players need to have a strong track record and their profiles are updated so commentators have easy access to their information. In winning teams, the players are there on the basis of merit. They are not there based on what their surname is, what part of the country they come from, or who they know in the political arena.
Anil Chitrakar is President of Siddharthinc.
Nepal in the grip of World Cup fever, Monika Deupala