Sports in disarray after devastating Nepal earthquakes
KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) A revered national sports coach is among the thousands of dead, trapped in his rented house when devastating earthquakes rocked Nepal.
The main football stadium was damaged, before becoming a makeshift refuge for displaced survivors of the quakes. The national cricket team's preparations for a major international tournament next are in disarray. The Asian weightlifting championships, scheduled for Kathmandu in July, are destined to be held somewhere else.
The two recent earthquakes killed more than 8,300 people, and have had a devastating impact on all aspects of life in Nepal, including sports.
Nepal Volleyball Association general secretary Jeetendra Bahadur Chand said coach Keshav Lal Shrestha's death in Kathmandu was ''irreparable.''
''He was a dedicated and experienced coach,'' Chand said of Shrestha, who played in the 1982 Asian Games at New Delhi and was coaching for almost 30 years. ''He was a dedicated and experienced coach whose demise is a great loss for sports in Nepal.''
Shrestha was among eight people associated with sports who were killed in the quakes, according to the National Sports Council's Deepak Bista, the member secretary of the players' welfare fund.
Paralympian Jeet Bahadur Khadka and prominent sports writer Suman Bhomjan are among those to have died.
The small but resilient national sports fraternity is determined to get things back on track.
Pubundu Dassanayake is trying to prepare for the national cricket team for qualifiers for the World Twenty20 tournament.
''We're not going to give up,'' he said. ''The tournament is vital for the future of Nepal's cricket and we plan to go to India for preparations.''
Nepal qualified for the last World Twenty20 in Bangladesh in 2014 and is due to participate in the July 9-26 qualifying competition in Ireland and Scotland, hoping to secure a spot at the 2016 edition in India.
''None of our players are harmed physically but they have suffered mental scars just like any other person,'' said Dassanayake, a former Sri Lanka test wicketkeeper who has been coaching in Nepal since 2011. ''A good performance by the cricketers will boost the morale of the country.''
The quakes caused major damage to civic structures and heritage sites, and the scars are evident on sports venues, too.
The Tribhuvan University ground's indoor cricket facility has sustained obvious damage, while the walls surrounding the Dasharath Stadium, which hosted the recent World Cup football qualifier against India, have collapsed.
Both venues are being used as shelters for people displaced by the earthquake.
The national football league has been suspended indefinitely.
All Nepal Football Association acting President Lalit Krishna Shrestha said he was uncertain when the league would resume because ''we have been experiencing aftershocks every day.''
''The situation has pushed Nepal's sports a step backward,'' he said. ''It is essential that every stakeholder of the country joins hands together to overcome the situation.''
National captain Sagar Thapa knows it will take time for the country to get back to normal, and that should be the priority.
''The primary focus is on safety of life rather than playing,'' Thapa said. ''The earthquake has brought all walks of life together since it has hampered the life of everyone.''
Nepal may also lose the rights to host the 2015 Asian weightlifting championships, which were due to be held in Kathmandu from July 24-30. The Asian weightlifting federation lists the championships as ''to be confirmed'' and has encouraged the Nepal organizers to host the 2016 championships instead.
''The AWF has requested us not to host the event and has proposed that we host the next edition in 2016,'' Partha Sarathi Sen Gupta, general secretary of the Nepal Weightlifting Association, said. ''The event is a matter of national pride but we have left it to them and the decision will be made within a week.''
The international federation released a statement later Tuesday saying local organizers had decided to cancel the organization of the championships.
Nepal Olympic Committee chief Dhruba Bahadur Pradhan says it is important for athletes and coaches to be able to turn their attention back to sports to help them overcome traumatic experiences.
''Our primary focus is to create a healthy environment for athletes,'' Pradhan said. ''We are planning to distribute sports kits at earthquake hit areas since we believe sports to be the best tool to restore normalcy.''
Pradhan said the country was looking forward to support from abroad.
The International Olympic Committee and FIFA are among the international sports organizations offering support.
''In the initial phase we have requested them to help in reconstruction of infrastructure, supply of essential medicine, relief to the family of effected and dead sports persons,'' Pradhan said.