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The Blue Wolves Of Mongolia Attempt To Howl A Little Louder

Shadab Iftikhar

Depending on who you ask, for millions around the world, the legendary Mongol warrior Genghis Khan has come to be known as either the one who ruled the largest land mass extending across Central Asia or the one who devastated tribes leaving behind a bloody trail as they looked at expanding their empire. And that is the association with Mongolia, for many of us at least. It was only until 1992, the official foreign influence on the nineteenth largest nation in the world had come to an end. Since then, the road to sustain political and financial freedom has been rocky for the land of open greens, its 2.8 million people, wild horses and beautiful blue skies. As in the case with many developing nations during the early 1900’s, Football was introduced to Mongolia by returning students who journeyed abroad to seek education. Inspired by the notion of social modernization in 1925, the Minister of Education at the time, Erdene-Batukhan visited neighboring Soviet Union as well as countries in Western Europe to gain knowledge on the far more developed educational systems with the intention of implementing them back in Mongolia. A year later, 40 students were selected and enrolled in schools across France and Germany, as part of the initial exchange program. Few were sent across to Soviet Union. However, as a result of increasing Soviet influence on Mongolia, the climate of educational freedom was gradually diminishing. Subsequently, between 1929 and 1932, all students studying abroad were asked to return. With their return, arrived football. Having gained traction among the local youth, Mongolia saw the formation of its first ever football team in 1936 – a team made up of workers from the coal mining factory of Nalaikh, 40 kilometers from the capital, Ulaanbaatar which is considered to be among the most dangerous coal mine in the world in present times. Their first game was against Russian workers employed at the same quarry. Yet, the popularity of the game did not pick up until a few decades later as Mongolia, under the Soviet voice, suffered the brutal Stalinist purges and two successful conflicts against Japan in 1939 and 1945, respectively. The two wars had taken its toll exposing diminished resources, key to the basic survival of the local population. In 1950, the Mongolian Revolutionary Party, in an attempt to improve the living conditions of the common man, realized the need to turn to socialism. They assumed that in doing so, the financial structure of the nation would develop. Similarly, football achieved popular status with an increase number of participants across the nation, thanks to the socialist government’s initiative to establish sports communities and organized football competitions. Mentors from the Soviet Union were invited to help in the development of the game with roles including scouting potential players, team selections, providing consistent training and organized coaching and referee development programs. During this period, the nation played its first international games in a local tournament featuring teams from Russia, China and Vietnam. As the game progressed, so was the need to have a platform to govern it, leading to the formation of the Mongolian Football Federation in 1959. The nation was on the right track but a recession in 1990 caused a dent in that progress, and the subsequent financial crunch affected its development. The resulting democratic revolution brought about fundamental reformations across the political spectrum. Football was left to defend itself during these distressing times. Still, seven years down the line a group of passionate football fans initiated a movement to bring about the restructuring of the domestic league. Their efforts also witnessed the Federation being accepted as a full member of the Asian Football Confederation in 1998 and successively being accepted into FIFA the governing body a few weeks later. Inclusion into FIFA meant that the Mongolian Football Federation could now apply for much needed funds through the development grants provided by FIFA, eventually allowing for promising conditions to encourage participation in the game across the nation. Domestic football in Mongolia has witnessed an improvement since its earlier days, but progress is slowed down as a result of access to playing time. It was only a few decades ago that saw the formation of an organized football league with the number of participating teams fluctuating every year. Additionally, when almost all the associations within FIFA play a minimum of eight months, the harsh and extreme climatic conditions in Mongolia meant that its National Premier League games would have to be played within a four to five month time period. Hence, there exists an urgent need to reevaluate the current league structure along with infrastructure to improve playing standards. In recent times, the FA has had its own share of issues to deal with. In 2014, former chief Ganbold Buyannemekh was suspended from the game for five years for his role in the scandal surrounding then AFC President Mohammed Bin Hammam. He was accused of accepting bribes in 2009 and then again in 2011 to back Bin Hammam’s election to the executive committee and the FIFA Presidency, respectively. However, things do look positive under new President Ganbaatar Amgalanbaatar. The prize money for its premier league has also seen an increase thanks to the new management with the top three clubs in the league taking home a humble £20,000, £15,000 and £10,000 – an increase from £8k, $6K and $4K received under previous management. Enkhjin Batsumber, co-chairman of league club Bayangol FC, explains the importance of the change in the Presidency of the MFF. “The situation in Mongolia before Bayangol FC was one of disappointment. There has not been any changes or improvements under the former FA president with people in the local football community feeling very disappointed and frustrated. Last year that same president was banned by FIFA ethics committee resulting in the election of Mr. Ganbaatar. Since then things have been improving a lot. Now the perception is very positive and motivating. I think the change of the MFF...

The post The Blue Wolves Of Mongolia Attempt To Howl A Little Louder appeared first on Footynions.



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