Subas Humagain, Kathmandu
Amid lack of proper facilities and economic hardship, the Nepali national table tennis team is busy preparing for the Asian Championship to be held in Qatar this month. With tournament just two weeks away, the qualified players are worried about raising financial resources to participate rather than preparing for the tournament.
The team morale is similar to the hall that team is currently training in, dim and gloom. The lack of adequate lighting in the National Table Tennis Hall has had a direct impact on training. Due to a lack of funds, the association has not been able to arrange closed training. Despite repeated notifications to the National Sports Council (NSC) to repair the lights, no work has been done for months.
Moreover, the players are bearing all the expenses of the training, diet, and costs incurred for participation. The players have received assurance from NSC that they will get back the expenses incurred while playing the tournament after returning. Currently, the All Nepal Table Tennis Association (ANTTA) has asked the players for the airfare to Qatar and the daily quarantine cost of USD 150.
Despite the darkness in training and lack of funds for preparation, there is little room for expectation from the players. The Asian Championship is a place for Nepali players to improve their game and gain experience. The arrival of young players in table tennis, which achieved historic results in the 13th SAG held two years ago, is on the rise. This time, 13-year-old Evana Thapa Magar is also going to Qatar in the team. She has not played in the national competition so far and was selected in the selection competition organized by the association with excellent results.
It is very difficult for school student Evana to go to play the international tournament financially. A student of AVM School, she started playing table tennis 4 years ago. Having shown her level in the local competition she is on the verge of being the youngest player in the national team. She has assurances from ANTTA and NSC that they will bear the cost of her participation. With the economic situation complicated due to Corona, the players participating with Evana are worried about managing money rather than training for the tournament.
Sikka Suwal, the top seed in the selection, said that she had taken a loan to play in the Asian Championship. “There is an opportunity to play in the Asian Championship. We are not going to let this go, ‘she said,’ when there was a normal situation, we used to earn some money by giving training in school. It’s been two years since Corona and I have no money. So I took some loans to be able to go to Qatar. ‘
National champion Santoo Shrestha also said that hearing such talk at the time of training would weaken morale. ‘We are representing our nation in such a big event but the expenses have to be borne by oneself. How do you expect players to have good morale, ‘he said,’ NSC member secretary has promised that the money will be paid back. But for now, we are trying to manage it on our own.’
Binesh Khaniya, who is preparing for the Asian Championship, says that it is difficult to play because there are not enough lights. “It’s difficult in training. There is good light in the competition, but it is very difficult to prepare well here, ‘he said.
In the present condition, the players who got the opportunity to represent the country by qualifying from the selection competition have to be financially strong along with their skills and abilities in the game. It has mocked the concerned sports association and NSC.
The President of the ANTTA Chaturananda Rajvaidya said that the association had recommended NSC for a ticket. ‘We have requested NSC in writing. The member secretary has also expressed his commitment to pay back, ‘he said,’ but as it will take some time to disburse the funds, he has said that he will manage later. As the association does not have its own resources, we have asked the players to raise money themselves. ’
Santoo complained that there were many problems even when the lights were not maintained at the training ground. “The ball doesn’t look good in the hall. We had lights readied for SAG but now they do not work, ‘he said,’ compared to other international competition, the full facility light here is still weak. It has been months since the lights have gone off and have created lots of problems in training. ‘
Rajvaidya, president of the association, has also admitted that there is not enough light. “We have also asked NSC for lights,” he said. “There are not enough lights for training. Out of 24 lights, only 4/5 are lit. The association is not in a position to repair. NSC has inspected the situation and we hope it is repaired soon. ’
Amarlal Malla, who has been playing various international competitions in Nepali table tennis for nearly a decade and a half, is also disappointed to see this situation. “Not all players are financially strong. There are even younger players this time. It would have been easier if the union had made some arrangements, ‘he said.
In Nepal, we can see the emergence of franchise leagues along with regular competitions in other sports. Players of football and cricket are showing off their talents and earning good money financially playing such leagues. Some organizations are trying to hold similar competitions in other sports as well.
At a time when the sport is becoming more professional, it doesn’t look good for the players to fund on their own. When they should be busy preparing for a prestigious competition like the Asian Championship to represent the nation, they are busy managing funds for their journey.
Six players have booked their place for the Asian Championship to start this month. In the men’s category, Binesh Khaniya, Amar Lal Shrestha and Santoo Shrestha will compete. Sikka Suwal will be joined by Evana Thapa Magar and Elina Maharjan in the women’s category. The tournament will be held in Qatar from September 28- October.