Following his visit to Bhutan, the FIFA President flew past the Himalayas and Mount Everest into Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepal, where he was greeted by Youth and Sports Minister Kamala Roka, state minister Gopi Achami, National Sports Council member secretary Yubaraj Lama and All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) President Ganesh Thapa .
Blatter then met the country’s President Dr Ram Baran Yadav and Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai. The Nepali President said he was happy to receive Blatter and his delegation and publically declared a sincere appreciation of his efforts at FIFA.
“The contribution that you have given to world football for over three decades at FIFA is really remarkable,” Dr Yadav told Blatter in a meeting at Shital Niwas. “Your intention to bring football to under-privileged country is also noteworthy,” added the President. After a ten-minute meeting with the Prime Minister in Baluwatar, Blatter said he was happy to be in Nepal following an overwhelming reception.
“I am absolutely revitalised after being so warmly received,” commented President Blatter. “It was a fantastic Nepali welcome.”
It was then time to move to the Dasharath Stadium for the opening of the AFC Challenge Cup, the biggest footballing event which Nepal has witnessed. The FIFA President commented that it was a big day for Nepali football. “To host the AFC Challenge Cup is a huge achievement for this country,” he said, while Nepal’s Prime Minister turned to Blatter, commenting; “Your visit will promote the sport here.”
Blatter calls for gender equality
In the FIFA President’s inauguration speech, which coincided with International Women’s Day, he affirmed FIFA's commitment to supporting and developing the women's game in Nepal and stated the parallels between football and supporting women's rights in that both are about fair play, respect and discipline.
The AFC in collaboration with ANFA and SAATHI - a non-government organization that focuses on the issue of domestic violence against women and children - established a campaign under its Dream Asia project entitled "Our Goal: Stop Violence Against Women" which was launched yesterday. The Dasharath Stadium was decked out with banners and flags promoting the campaign while players from all teams publicly pledged their support for women's empowerment.
Although Nepal’s day ended with a 2-0 defeat against Palestine under the floodlights, Blatter saw tremendous positives in the game and his visit.
“Nepal played well after conceding the goal and I’m sure they will continue to progress,” he said. “I’m sure Nepal can go further in international football and FIFA is helping. There is going to be an extension to the current ANFA Academy under the auspices of the FIFA Goal Programme, plus we are going to provide more assistance to women’s football in Nepal. In 1995, I had said that the future of the football would be feminine, so let's encourage women’s football in the world.”
Blatter commented on the ‘Our Goal: Stop Violence Against Women’ programme. “I was happy to see the way this was being initiated,” continued the FIFA President. “My sincere thanks go to the AFC, ANFA and SAATHI. I will personally help ANFA and SAATHI on this project. We should respect women. We shouldn't harm them. Women are our mothers. How can we harm our mothers?"
Football creates awareness
SAATHI President Bandana Rana responded: "Nepalese women are facing violence in different forms like physical harassment, domestic violence, women trafficking, rape and violence. SAATHI has been working to promote gender equality and to stop violence against women for 28 years. Football is the best medium to create awareness among people in Nepal, as the game is popular in the country."
President Blatter also inaugurated the FIFA Goal Programme in Nepal by lighting an oil lamp in a ceremony held at the ANFA Complex, Satdobato, Lalitpur.
AFC Acting President Zhang Jilong, AFC vice-president and ANFA President Thapa, FIFA Executive Committee member Manilal Fernando, plus SAATHI President Rana were also present.
Children from SAATHI sheltered homes and ANFA academy boys participated in an exciting 30-minute footballing exhibition. The ANFA President revealed that a women’s footballing academy will open in the near future.
Thapa said: "Under the GOAL project, 150 players will be based in three academies. We are working hard for the development of Nepalese football. We have started semi-professional football, but local FAs have also initiated different programmes for the promotion and development of the game. An academy for women will be developed soon.”
The FIFA President and his delegation now travel to India to meet with Indian President, Prativa Patil, where she will be joined by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and other senior officials.
I’m sure Nepal can go further in international football and FIFA is helping.