At One Game, One World we are always looking for the stories that don’t find their way into the daily football headlines. We also want to bring you to the places where the heart of the game beats strongly regardless of where that may be. Which is why we are pleased to bring you a story on Macchindra Football Club.
Founded in 1973, Macchindra Football Club are based in Kathmandu, Nepal and in recent years have achieved great respect on the domestic front by finally achieving promotion to the Nepalese top-flight in 2005. A look into the story of the ‘Red Lions’ is to gain a fascinating insight into the current state of football in Nepal itself.
With all the clubs in the 1st Division or Martyrs League as it known coming from Kathmandu, every match is a derby for Macchindra FC, and their closest rivals Rani Pokhari Corner Team (RCT) are only 200 meters away. Still, you won’t find the red hot atmosphere of many of the world’s derbies in Kathmandu as the football culture there is more of an embracing of the game rather than full-blooded support for one’s team.
This is of course doesn’t mean that clubs like Macchindra FC don’t count on a sizable group of loyal fans. In fact matches at their home stadium of Dasharath Rangasala average about 5,000 on the weekends and in times of important fixtures or…during holidays, crowds can reach the heights of nearly 20,000. This may come as a surprise to many who don’t know much about the game in Nepal. I should make it clear that the National Stadium in Kathmandu, Dasharath Rangasala, is not only the home pitch of the Red Lions but of all the clubs in the Martyrs League as its used for all league matches.
The last few years have seen Macchindra FC become trendsetters as far as football in Nepal goes. The club have promoted themselves on the Internet with the creation of an official website and Facebook page. They are establishing a good brand identity and other football clubs in the country are beginning to follow suit as well.
The club have enjoyed relative success in the last few seasons due to a combination of foreign talent and some of Nepal’s best players including Rohit Chand and former player Kiran Chemjong, both of whom have represented the country’s National Team. Currently, the club have three foreign players in their ranks including Daniel Baroni (Brazil), Collins Eze (Mozambique), and Heazy Rahim (Guinea).
We were able to get some in-depth information on the inner-workings of the club and football in Nepal in general from an interview with Macchindra FC Liasion Officer, Nabin Chitrakar. Please read on and enjoy.
One Game, One World: Where do Machhindra Football Club play their matches? What is the altitude there?
Macchindra FC Liasion Officer, Mr Nabin Chitrakar: MFC play all its matches at Dasharath Rangasala, the National Stadium in Kathmandu. Actually as all the top division clubs in Nepal are from Kathmandu and there is only one stadium in the city – all league matches are played at Dasharath Rangasala.
Contrary to popular belief, the altitude in Kathmandu is only 1,400 Meters (4,500 feet). It’s quite amusing because lots of foreign teams that come to Kathmandu complain about the altitude, especially when they lose, but it really plays no factor. Now pollution – that’s another story.
What are the average crowds? Does the crowd size increase when playing a main rival?
Average crowds are around 3,000. Weekend matches draw around 5,000 and the big matches bring in 15-20,000. Unfortunately, this year attendance has dropped dramatically to around 1,500 average and 3,000 on the weekends. It’s partly due to poor marketing by the league organizers and partly local factors like traffic, game times, etc.
As all the clubs are from Kathmandu, every match is a derby match. There really is not a big rivalry between the clubs. Certainly when playing against the top clubs (i.e. Nepal Police Club, Three Star Club), the crowds increase.
What is the largest crowd the team have ever had?
Perhaps 10,000, but crowds in Nepal do not consist of “supporters”. We really do not have a “supporters” culture. Usually people just go to the stadium to watch football (like English County Cricket). Sure once at the game they will choose a team to root for, but very few people really attend matches because of a rooting interest. Thus our largest crowd had little to do with the fact that we were playing. It could have been good weather, a public holiday, a match against one of the top sides, etc.
When does the season run?
Usually from November to March. But this year because of various factors from February to May.
Who are Macchindra’s main rivals in the Nepal league?
Our closest football neighbor is Rani Pokhari Corner Team (RCT). They are just 200 meters from where we are located. But it would be difficult to say that they are our main rivals as all the teams are fairly close to each other. Kathmandu is a very small city geographically. As mentioned there really is not a supporters culture in Nepal, thus you do not really have real rivalries.
Who is currently the coach of the team?
Our coach is Dhruba KC. He is a national level coach and was the coach of the Nepal Womens National Team. He also won a league title as the coach of Three Star Club a few years back. Dhruba KC was a last minute replacement for our Nigerian Coach Tope Fuja. Fuja unfortunately was denied an entry visa to Nepal, as Nepal recently passed strict visa regulations for nationals from several African countries including Nigeria.
Have you ever had a foreign coach?
Yes! Tope Fuja. He is now the coach of Mumbai United FC. He used to also coach the de facto Tibetan National Team.
Who are some of the club’s legendary players?
MFC has only been in the top division for 3 seasons, so we do not really have any legendary players. Nepal’s National Team goalkeeper Kiran Chemjong used to play for us. We also had a Nigerian player Michael Olakitan who now plays in Poland. Our current stopper Rohit Chand is arguably one of Nepal’s top players.
Are there any players from the club that have represented the national team?
Yes, Kiran Chemjong and Rohit Chand.
Any foreigners ever play for Machhindra FC?
We’ve had lots of Nigerians come through our club. Currently we are about to sign a few more foreigners from different countries. Unfortunately we cannot disclose the names or countries until all the paperwork goes through (Editor’s Note: the club have just signed Collins Eze from Mozambique and Heazy Rahim from Guinea).
What do the next few years look like for the club? What are the goals and objectives?
MFC has really become the darling of Nepali football. Until 5 years ago, nobody had heard of the club. Now we are considered one of the top clubs in the country and perhaps the most pioneering. We’ve developed links with foreign clubs, launched a website, are active on Facebook, have a strong brand identity. These are things very few clubs paid attention too. Now slowly they are following our footsteps.
We felt we had an honest chance at the title this year, but our coach and foreign players were all denied visas a few days before the league started. That really was a big blow. We are definitely aiming for the title next year and in the years to come. We are financially on par with the big clubs, so there really is little holding us back.
How popular is football in Nepal?
Football is by far the number one sport in the country. People here really have a passion for the sport. Football matches in the villages will see rows 10-15 people deep. It’s really amazing. Many of the top players in India have Nepali lineage, including several of their top national team players.
The sad fact is that the country and our national football association has not been able to properly harvest this passion for the sport. We have not won a regional level national team tournament in over 15 years!
How well supported is the club?
As mentioned previously, there really is not a supporters culture in Nepal. Clubs are mainly propped-up by well wishers in the local neighborhood.
Just as an anecdote, we made 500 team jerseys for sale and we have 450 fans on Facebook. So if we figure those numbers reflects 25% of our fan base (just an unscientific random guess), then we probably have a hardcore fan base of around 1,500-2,000.
What are the clubs’ finances like? Are transfer fees paid for players? Are the players paid?
The top Nepali clubs (around 6-8 of them) have budgets of around $40-60,000. The rest are totally amateur and depend on donations. Players are paid around $250-450 a month, which is a very good salary for someone living in one of the poorest countries in Asia. Foreign players earn between $1,000-1,500 a month. There is no transfer market in Nepal – the system has never set foot in the country.
Are there any memorable matches that come to mind that have gone down in club history?
MFC ended the 32 game-winning streak of Nepal Police Club. It was the headline in every single Nepali newspaper. You can find the photo on our Facebook Page.
One Game, One World thanks Mr. Chitrakar for his time answering our questions as well as to the entire organization at Macchindra FC. We urge you to visit their Official Site and Facebook page and add your support to this up-and-coming side.