Nepali Women In Sports

July 24, 2014 , by Samridhi Goyal, Leave your thoughts
Nepali Women In Sports » My Dreams Mag
Sports has always been in the shadows in Nepal. While the struggle of the athletes and their ceaseless suffering make life tough, the desire to taste glory never holds them back. But it has never been bed of roses with the state's indifference always being the biggest thorn that has to be plucked out in every instance. If something balances the sportsmen and women its the indifference of the state. What actually goes on behind the scenes and where do our sportswomen stand? The DREAMS team explores.

Growing up in the subcontinent, Indian batting legend Sachin Tendulkar was omnipresent as my father has been an ardent cricket fan. I remember learning to read the score and trying to understand what actually went on in the field because I wanted to join my father as he sat glued to the TV screen for hours.


Around the age of eight or nine we started learning to play basketball in school and that is when it struck me: Yes. Girls could play too and be good at it. We begun from the scratch but the question that firmly struck was how many of us took to sports, as a career. As I talked to various people deciphering what it takes to be a professional sports woman in Nepal, the other thing that struck me was how passionate each of them were.


Bibhuti Karki

Bibhuti Karki

Take young Bibhuti Karki for instance who had chosen to practice tennis than spending her time on holidays when she was of a tender age. Her father bought her coach a cycle so that he could go to and from Sadobato Sports Complex to beging the practice session as early as 4:00 am which eventually lead to her becoming the youngest national champion.


Most of the sports women come from the interiors of Nepal, the little towns and villages where life is simpler and running around, getting roughed up and being yourself is the way of life. They start playing games in school or within their communities with peers and followed it through to pass the selections at each crossroad before making it to the national level.


Despite being based in a remote area with little or no communication facilities is tough, Tara Devi Pun was invited to play volleyball for the national team in the 8th SAFF Games in 1999 before she took up weightlifting. However, the letter of invitation reached her after the Games ended robbing her of the opportunity. She though feels that fate had better plans for her in the longer run.


But all is not as hunky dory as it seems. The overall sports scenario in Nepal is pretty dismal with the needs of the women athletes being pushed down even further in the list of things. Most of the time players are unawared about the coach for any upcoming international event leaving them high and dry. Even if there are competent trainers available they keep getting different people who have varied approaches each time. With no consistency in the quality of training, the results suffer.


Having a fixed set of coaches and trainers for each sport throughout the year would surely assure an easier process. Another issue is fostering the raw talent that comes through the chaos. For many beginners who come to the capital from far off places to undergo advanced training from the sports authorities have no basic food and board facilities available, therefore the players are left to fend for themselves. If they are lucky enough to have a relative or friend to help them out all is good otherwise they prefer to stay in their own town. And later retreat during tournaments but that would deteriorate the peformance that is affected by the consistent quality of day-to-day training.


Rubina Chhetri

Rubina Chettri

Rubina Chettry, the national women’s team cricketer has had no option but to stay back in Birtamode. On the other side of the coin is Keshari Chaudhary, the track and field star landed a job with the Nepal Police Club on the basis of her performances just before she shifted base to Kathmandu enabling herself to pay for the expenses. To be at the top of your game at the highest level one need to be practicing with the best facilities available, which are not maintained and upgraded periodically at least in Nepal. Keshari Chaudhary shares, “The tracks at Dashrath Rangashala are in dire need of maintenance and upgrade. However no action has been taken in this regard. I hope things fall into place.”


Also for sports like swimming there is not enough number of standardized pools available and neither an indoor-heated pool. Especially in a country like Nepal where the winter is brutal, the weather no doubt deprives swimmers from the extra time they need to spend for training.


“Practice makes a man perfect,” it is said, but in Nepal athletes hardly enjoy more exposure and chances to hone their skills. Matches and competitions are held only about once a year and the rest of the time the players are literally idle. The skills earned after much of toil start getting rusty. Instead of facilitating athletes with a packed schedule through the air, the sports governing bodies only seem to respond to the international calendar. “We are called to the closed-camp only about two months before a tournament. In that short period of time we are expected to form a cohesive team with girls who each have different strategies and skills,” said Rubina.


“And at the same time we are burdened with the pressure to return with a 100 percent result and that practically seems impossible. If you want us to perform well it has to be a consistent effort. Much more efforts are needed to provide international coaching to promising players so that they know how the get the better of ranking players.


The training plans and its implementation should go accordingly.” Sofia Shah, the rising swimming sensation shares, “I go to Thiland and train at a sports camp out of my own will and expenses. The Nepal Swimming Association (NSA) makes no effort in this regard. We often wonder how sports can be taken as a full time career.”


Sofia Shah

Tara Devi Pun, taekwondo player Manita Shahi and Keshari are paid recruits in the Nepal Police Club and represent their organisation in national events. They also get meagre prize money in case of a win and the sports authorities have been trying to come up with a minimum stipend program which may come into place. Keshari plans to continue playing for around three to four more years but on finishing graduation, she is planning to explore other options. Sofia, who is about to graduate from high schools plans to study medicine.


The players are selected without any proper procedure, unfair to those who wait in line to make the cut. Sofia says, “The NSA is more like a family run business which makes it quite tiresome and annoying to get your point across.” The sports authorities need to be more transparent and listen to the players and work to solve issues systematically but as Somesh Verma, Associate Editor of Republica daily, states we as a country are not accountable to ourselves to see whether we are going in the right direction.


When it comes to women being sports people there is always a sexist and condescending approach. From people telling Tara Devi Pun that weightlifting was not a sport a woman should play to Rubina Chettri being ridiculed for being tomboyish and joining a group of boys in her locality for cricket matches when she was younger. “As such women sports are not the top priority for high ranking officials and they are there just for the heck of it. Despite the fact that Sangina Baidya was one of the only two players from Nepal who qualified rightfully to play in the Olympics has always been seen as more to do with physical stamina, strength and power which people associate only with men.”, says Mr. Somesh Verma.


Rubina Chettry says, “If we were given the same kind of coaching that the men’s team get I am sure that we would have played at the World Cup much before they did.” This alone shows that the training regimen for women is much lighter and less grueling then that for men.


Manita Shahi1a

Manita Shahi

These results in far less serious injuries for the women and if they do happen medical attention is provided only in times of tournaments or if you have done well. Women go through a tough time when in some discipline they are not given proper or almost nil attention just because the medal or winning chances are slim.


There might not be immediate results but if the concerned bodies map out a long term plan as to how sports can be improved, five or ten years down the line, and start training in that direction it will definitely yield results in the bigger picture. For that there needs to be proper evaluation and solution finding of all the issues concerned as well as immediate implementation of measures. Building up bench strength and polishing new talent for the upcoming generation is a must. There have been a few initiatives in recent years to inculcate sports at the grassroots level in school going children so that in a few years they can turn professional. However, much more needs to be done to ensure that there is no void when the older generation retires.


For the betterment of sport there has to be an active involvement of women as well. “There are very few women who are interested in sports and even fewer women sports journalist as such there are not enough women who voice an opnion about what needs to change for the better,” adds Verma.


The other fact being, sportswomen who retire are forced to go into oblivion and rarely do they want to come back as administrators and activists. Having already been a part of it, they are the best choice to be the policy makers. Perhaps they need to think about how they can give back to the sport that gave them an identity in life. It seems very important to remember that one day all good things must come to an end and hence even sportswomen who were once in their prime have to hang up their boots. Maybe they can have academies where they train potential talent.

Keshari Chaudhary

Keshari Chaudhary

Despite the dark clouds, the silver lining remains that sportswomen have endured this journey with grit and determination, managing to do quite well within the constraints. Their families too have always been behind them with unwavering faith and support. Sports have managed to create better lives for a lot of women in terms of fame and a foothold in society.


Being out there in the arena has helped turn them into strong, energetic, confident women with positive body images. With a little bit of work things can be hugely improved. The Dreams wishes them all the very best and more power to them.


Sofia Shah- Bagged six golds and broke her own national record in 50 m freestyle and 2000 m freestyle in the heat events of the 17th national swimming championship held under Lumbini Championship. Declared best swimmer. Set new national records in 50 m and 200m freestyle during Fina world championship in Spain.Ranked no.1 national swimmer in freestyle.

Tara Devi Pun- Bettered her own national record recently lighting 70 kg in snatch and 93 kg in clean and jerk. Best weightlifter in Nepal today.

Rubina Chettri- skipper of Nepali national cricket team has lead her team in many events. Hopes to hold aloft the world cup for Nepal some day

Keshari Chaudhary- Multifaceted involved in athletics and cricket both. Has set records in 400 m and Javelin throw.

Manita Shahi- One of the most experienced Taekwondo players in Nepal. Recently bagged gold in the U-62 weight category in the 2nd mount Everest International Open Taekwonkdo Championship.


Text by: Samridhi Goyal


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