Nepali Times Asian Paints
Take our chances



The 11th South Asian Games (SAG) are set to begin on 29 January in Dhaka, Bangladesh. As participating countries gear up for the tournament, Nepali preparations have been hindered by complications within the National Sports Council (NSC) and various sports bodies. And this only scratches the surface.

NSC Vice President Pitambar Timilsina says, "political disturbances have delayed training, so not all of our players are fully prepared."

Meanwhile, sports teams are strapped for cash. While NSC requested Rs 110 million for SAG preparations, they have only received Rs 90 million.

Nepal is sending around 300 men and women to compete in 23 events. The expectations of our martial artists, who have won medals in past Games, are high. But their chances look bleak in light of the extensive preparations the Afghani, Indian and Bangladeshi sides have undertaken.

When martial artist Mukunda Maharjan, who won five gold medals at the National Games, lost 6-0 to an Afghani competitor during a tournament in Bangkok, it became clear our martial artists aren't on top of their game. Taekwondo player Deepak Bista, who is hoping to win his fourth SAG medal, explains, "In other countries, you would train for ten months and rest for two, here, you train for two months and rest for ten. So how can we be expected to win a medal?"

Within the athletics contingent, which is our largest this year, runners in the marathon and 5000-metre events have the best record. But here too, support is lacking. Marathon runner Arjun Basnet, who won a silver medal in the 10th SAG, says, "There's pressure on us to win a medal even they we haven't received enough support."

But there's good news too. If Anil Gurung and Jamuna Rai keep up their good form, then there's a strong chance our football teams, by far the most famous of the lot, will win a medal. Bangladeshi soil has proven lucky: Nepal won a gold medal at the 6th SAFF games in Dhaka in 1993.

Nepal's U-21 cricket team, led by team captain Gyanendra Malla, [see box below] will compete in a 20-over competition. Malla also led the U-18 team at the Youth World Cup in Malaysia. However, the team faces steep competition in world cricket powerhouses India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. If they manage to come away with a win, it will be a historic occasion indeed.

1. Sushil Thapa
If I am to predict Nepal's overall performance at the upcoming SAG in Bangladesh, I have to say in one word," mediocre". I hope I am wrong , and our athletes come out with flying colors to catch critics like me on the wrong footing. I have drawn a pessimist conclusion for the simple fact, we are in Dhaka sans inadequately prepared in terms of training and international exposure, coupled with poor physical conditioning. As a matter of fact, this has been the practice for years and years, and as a result athletes have always been under enormous pressure and duress. Hopefully athletes, especially in martial arts live up to their reputation and strike it rich. Other than that, we stand very little chances in most disciplines. The biggest irony is that on the eve of a mega sporting like the SAG most observers, including the government tend to pin high hopes on athletes. And when they fail to deliver the goods, they are not only ticked off but scapegoat them shamelessly, which to me is laughable. In no way are athletes deserve to be treated shabbily as they have been, over the years for their lackluster performance. Instead we should be proud of them for the simple reason, they have bravely withstood the adversity, and have been performing to their ability. The government's apathy and gross negligence is largely responsible for the pathetic state of sports.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)