by Ayush Khadka
KATHMANDU, June 8 (Xinhua) -- A quick scan of the local sports section in the Nepali media of late shows names of African players making headlines almost every day.
An outsider would naively assume that these names are associated with the much-fancied European leagues whose games are being followed worldwide. But a detailed reading would show otherwise.
To the outside world, Nepal's main attraction is the majestic Himalayas and Mt Qomolangma (Mt Everest), the Mecca of mountain climbers around the world.
But this may not be true to the people from the African continent.
According to the All Nepal Football Association, the national league of Nepal, the Martyrs' Memorial A Division League has been attracting almost a hundred footballers from Africa who are trying to put their mark in Asian football, especially India and South East Asia.
Every year in the league seasons - that lasts for a little more than three months starting January - hoards of African football players travel to this part of the world, seeking a contract in the 14 top clubs of the country.
Some of them make it here with a contract in hand, while some go through a hard-fought competition that sees them rub shoulders with their fellow African men and local players to secure a deal with a club.
"It's not about the money," Adewumi Femi Joshua from Nigeria, who plays for league champion Three Star Club in Kathmandu, told Xinhua. "I am here for a different reason."
Joshua had never heard of Nepal until he traveled to India. The 19-year-old was advised by his brother, who is working as coach in one of the Indian clubs, to play in Nepal before thinking of making a career in Asian football.
"My brother had told me that Nepali players were skilled and were very good. He said that if I played for sometime in Nepal, my dribbling skills would improve," said Joshua, adding that he had indeed improved following his arrival here.
It's not just the African players who are willing to come to Nepal. Sometimes, the Nepali clubs themselves look for African players to join their teams.
According to Indra Man Tuladhar, chief executive officer of the All Nepal Football Association (ANFA), African players are easy to hire than Nepali players.
"To sign a Nepali player in the league requires a lot of money because we have to sign them for the whole season but for an African player, the clubs usually give them a three-month contract, " Tuladhar said.
Tuladhar said that African players are also more suited for the game than Nepali players because of their strong physical built. They also have a proven track record of being hardworking than Nepali players, Tuladhar added.
Tuladhar, who is also the president of one of the 14 clubs, plans to hire four African players this season. The ANFA rules allow a club to have a maximum of four foreign players in their squad.
The Three Star Club also has another African player in their squad.
Ziakhi Lenoce Dodoz is from Ivory Coast but his story on how he landed in Nepal is a bit different from that of Joshua.
Dodoz said he was actually duped by a Cameroonian who had once played in Nepal to come to Nepal.
Dodoz was told by the Cameroonian that he could earn 5,000 - 6, 000 U.S. dollars a month in Nepal.
"I was approached by a Cameroonian go to Nepal to play football. He had told me that I could earn a lot of money here. But that was not the case when I landed in the airport. I could tell from the infrastructure at the airport that Nepal is a poor country," Dodoz said.
However Dodoz said he did not regret coming to Nepal even if he is earning only 1,300 U.S. dollars a month. He said he has found happiness here and he has improved a lot because of the people's hospitality and their eagerness to talk to him.
On his Facebook, Dodoz said when he first arrived in Nepal in November in 2011, he felt alone and used to be furious when people called him hapsi (an informal word in Nepali to describe dark skin people.
"But now I have found that it's nothing offensive. It's like saying black in English," he said.
Dodoz said that Nepal has a lot of talented players but the problem is that the government cannot pump enough money to develop the game.
"To be honest, it was quite easy playing against clubs from foreign countries than playing against Nepali clubs.
Nepali players are skilled. I have improved a lot ever since I arrived here," Dodoz said.