The indoor basketball hall at Dasrath Statdium was unusually packed for the launch game of this year's Samsung National Basketball Championship organised by the Nepal Basketball Association. (NeBA).
Spectators participation was intense as fans sang their team songs and booed referee decisions, music blared from speakers during the half-time break, dancers from Learning Realm International School performed traditional dances and music icon Nirnaya NSK made an appearance to sing live.
In fact it looked more like a rock concert than a basketball game but it was proof sports in Nepal has now become a spectator sport. Six years in the running, the NeBA's national tournament just keeps getting bigger and better. This year 16 male teams and six female teams are battling it out.
"The most amazing thing is the spontaneous participation of women's teams from all over the country," says Mahendra Shakya of NeBA. "we are really encouraged by the enthusiasm."
Opening day saw defending men's champs Himalayan White House College drubbing Public Youth Campus 52-28 while women's number 1 Rato Bangala Club edged Holy Garden 23-18.
The tournament is a club event open to all players but teams are limited to three national players per roster. It is also a chance for players from around the country to get to know each other and to play under international basketball federation rules. The tournament is becoming more of a national affair as the years pass with the introduction of men's teams from Chitwan, Rupandehi, Kaski, Parsa and Sunsari. Says Shakya: "This championship will help spread basketball to the other urban areas outside Kathmandu."
It now also includes a three day training camp for referees from around the country at a basketball clinic organised by the NeBA. Krishna Maharjan, coach of Rato Bangala's women's team and a tournament official, says, "The tournament is a great way to develop the sport in Nepal, gain publicity and discover new talent. Nepali basketball needs events like these."