Look at this pandemic from the perspective of a sportsperson. Nepal’s National Women’s Basketball team captain, Ms. Sadina Shrestha shares her perspective on the pandemic and how it has affected her.
A little about Ms. Sadina Shrestha -- Ms. Shrestha joined the National team back in 2011. She started playing basketball when she was young and competed in her first national-level basketball tournament when she was in grade IX. She captained the national team and won the silver medal in the first-ever Women’s Basketball competition in the South Asian Games.
What have you been doing these past few months?
I had never thought that the lockdown would be extended this long—I thought the situation would continue maybe for a month and go back to normal but never had I thought it would extend for this long. I could not practice basketball with the team, so I focused on doing fitness workout because basketball is a very quick game, so fitness is really important. I continued doing the workouts in my home and the lockdown extended too. While practicing on my own, it felt very different from the normal practice I used to have.
Basketball is a team game. You need other players to practice. By myself, I only did fitness exercises. And as time went on, the 1-hour workout would become 40 minutes, then 30 minutes. So, it happened like that. I did the workout each day and am continuing still but it definitely falls short of what I used to do in my training.
So did you not practice at all during the lockdown period? How about when the lockdown was restricted?
Even until now, we have not got into our formal training. From the day the lockdown was imposed about 6-7 months ago till today, we have not had our practice!
Not just for basketball but for any sportsperson, a 6-month gap is detrimental to the player and the whole team. So, I feel the basketball association and the men’s and women’s team captain come together and work out a plan. There is a need for proper management so that the players can continue. For how long will we stay like this if the pandemic continues?
Have any steps been taken by the government regarding this matter?
The National Sports Council(NSC), which is our head body, has put a hold on all practices and scheduled events of every sport. So, as a player under the National Sports Council, until the NSC decides it is ok to continue with the practice, we as players cannot do anything.
I have yet to hear of plans from the government side, maybe they are underway or being formed but as of now, I have not heard them.
Other countries are taking different steps like there are different competitions being held internationally. Do you think we can do it in Nepal too?
We have seen the pandemic affecting sports all throughout the world. Major sports competitions like the Champions League and the NBA were held, but it must have been difficult for them too. For a small country like Nepal, I do not see competitions being held any time soon. I do not mean that being a small country we cannot do anything—we certainly can do things, but from a perspective of a person not even as a sportsperson, it seems that nothing is being done and it would be risky to do anything too.
How has this pandemic affected you and your team’s growth?
In 2019 we had the South Asian Games. We trained for around 1 year. For 5-6 months we stayed in camps and practiced. We achieved a lot. Not just basketball but football and other team sports and individual sports too. Just 2-3 months after the South Asian Games, the pandemic caused a hold on all practices. If we had a chance to further participate in national and international competitions after the South Asian Games, we would’ve improved our level a lot but due to the gap in our training, instead of going up our level is going down. But it is not just in the context of Nepal, the whole South Asian Community is facing this problem.
What do you think should be done by the National Sports Council (NSC)?
I think the NSC should make plans to re-continue practice for the players as soon as possible. I’m sure all the players must be going crazy just sitting at home. I am!
I have not heard any plans regarding this matter coming up any time soon. Taking proper care of players, periodic medical checkups and proper management are all very necessary and it takes time to manage it all. So, I hope the National Sports Council comes up with something.
Have you received any financial help from the government during this pandemic?
Nope, there has not been any financial help from the government during this pandemic. We have only received the prize money from the first, second prizes during the South Asian Games, but otherwise, we have not received any financial help as such from the government.
What! So, how have you been able to sustain yourself? Normally, would the government not pay your salaries?
So first of all the government does not give any national players a salary. It has not been the case here. The government only pays in the training camps-- like we have daily allowances during our camps and the prizes of the South Asian Games are there but that is about it. We have a contract with the clubs, so we get our salary from the club. Once the contract is over, we have to renew it.
Oh, so every national sportsperson is in some club and the clubs pay according to the contract?
In this time, a player from a good financial background may not have such a hard time but how about the average sportsperson?
Players from not only the average backgrounds but the ones with good financial standing have to struggle. But in our country especially it is difficult. From one perspective I feel that sports are given importance and from another one, I don’t feel sports are given priority. But one thing is for sure, the importance is given and the development of sports is better than before.
Suppose a player gets infected with the coronavirus, does the club look after them or do they look after themselves?
For the national players, at least health insurance should have been provided. I have heard some football clubs having insurance for their players but in our case, it has not been done. I have heard it is in the process, but do not know whether it has happened or not.
Don’t you think the players should be medically insured by the government body rather than the clubs? I mean clubs do have to insure their players but considering clubs in our country do not have many resources to go on and they are looking after the players all year round, it should have at least been done by the government.
Yes, I agree. I think so too. We have talked with the National Council too but I do not know whether it is being done or not.
But I am talking about medical insurance in this pandemic. The government did provide insurance for every player in the South Asian Games.
Lastly, what do you think should be done by the Government, like what things can be done?
We do not know for how long this pandemic continues. I think that the Government should look at how to get the players back into practice as soon as possible, provided that there is proper management. We, as players, when we take such a long time off from our practice it hampers our growth. We have to start again from scratch. The situation caused by the pandemic is definitely very risky but with proper measures, the players can get back to normal. So, the government should provide proper infrastructure and medical facilities along with a proper management system. That will take time for sure but first, the government should head in that direction.
I hope this article gave a different perspective on the pandemic.