Stained striker

  • Fifa’s ban on Ganesh Thapa is good news for Nepali football

Nov 18, 2015-

For as long as one can remember, Ganesh Thapa has been synonymous with corruption in Nepali football. Yet, even after being embroiled in a string of scandals, the former national team striker has always been able to escape justice by using his political connections. Not this time. On Monday, the Adjudicatory Chamber of the Independent Ethics Committee of Fifa, football’s global governing body, imposed a 10-year ban from football on Thapa and a fine of 20,000 Swiss Francs (approximately Rs 2.1 million). Last year, Nepal’s parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had directed the government to suspend Thapa, along with three other officials of All Nepal Football Association (Anfa), for alleged misappropriation of Rs 580 million. But in September 2014, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) put Thapa’s case on hold, arguing that it could not gather enough evidence. Thapa went back to work as president of Anfa—a position he has held since 1995.  

Thapa’s suspension this week comes at a time when corruption in football has been making headlines all over the world. In May, the US Justice Department indicted nine Fifa officials and five sports-marketing executives for “rampant, systemic, and deep-rooted” corruption and their “participation in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer”.

In 2012, an audit report of the Asian Football Confederation revealed that Gaurav Thapa, Ganesh Thapa’s son, had received $100,000 in his account from Mohamed bin Hammam, former president of the Asian Football Confederation. Fifa has since banned Hammam from all football-related activities for life. Thapa, however, shamelessly defended himself by saying that he had ‘borrowed’ money from Hammam for personal use. Thapa has also been accused of doctoring audit reports of Anfa, i.e, completely omitting the mention of the Goal Project through which it received $180,000 from Fifa in four phases from 2001 to 2012. An auditor also found that the company ‘involved’ in the construction of the Satdobato Sports Complex does not even exist.

By all accounts, remaining at the helm of Nepali football for over two decades only seems to have emboldened Thapa to scale new heights of corruption. His political clout is partly to blame. Despite his tainted image, he was nominated as a Constituent Assembly member by the Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal led by his brother, incumbent Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa. And now, Ganesh Thapa is a Member of Parliament.

The Fifa ban on Thapa, therefore, comes as a respite to many who have long been frustrated at successive governments’ hesitation to take action against him. Against this backdrop, the PAC should now question the CIAA and demand that its officials clarify the grounds on which they dropped the case against Thapa. It should also direct other concerned authorities to thoroughly investigate all the accusations against him. It would also do well for Thapa and his toadies to cooperate, as all the skeletons have now stumbled out of the closet. Hiding is not an option. 

Published: 18-11-2015 08:51

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