Herne Katha’s New Episode Portrays The Harsh Reality Of National Players In Nepal And Government’s Neglect Towards Them

Every emerging athlete’s dream is to represent the country they were born in on the big stage. It is an honor for an athlete to put on their national attire and to showcase their talent internationally. They pride themselves in being a representative of the country they call their motherland. But looking at the current situation in Nepal, one can’t help but wonder- does the government also pride itself in having such talented athletes that represent them? If they do, what is there to show for it?

Kabita Gautam, a young Nepalese cricketer, is one of the many athletes in Nepal to have felt hard done by the government. Born into a poor family, Kabita had very little means for doing anything meaningful in life. She was born in a remote village where girls were mostly subjected to household work and chores. Kabita’s parents, however, were understanding and supportive of whatever she did since she was small. Her father, despite his poor financial status, did all he could to fulfill Kabita and her siblings’ needs. She was raised through poverty and hardship and one place she forgot all the problems in her life, was on the cricket ground.

Passion In The Cricket Field

Kabita gained interest in cricket when she started playing with the boys around her home. While most people gave her the eyes for being a girl playing around boys, her parents were supportive of her and even had dreams that maybe one day she might be good enough to earn a living playing the sport. Little did they know, their little daughter would make their dreams come true. 

The passionate player started training in the ground near her home using gears and equipment from the boys she played with. The training was free and had it not been, maybe she would never have stepped into the sport professionally due to her financial status. She was trained with many others by coach Anil Sharma, who did it voluntarily through the pure love of the sport and nothing else. Anil Sharma is a well-known name in the sport in Nepal, having produced some big names in women’s cricket, like Kabita Chaudhary and Mamata Chaudhary. 

Anil Sharma coached the players in a public ground in Lahan of Nepal. The ground was uneven and had very little to show as a training complex. However, he managed some nets and some equipment which he used in training his students. Anil Sharma had built a formidable women’s team, and the team was feared by other teams, including tough opponents Armed Police Force (APF). Kabita Gautam was one of the players of the team, an all-rounder who was showing her brilliance on the pitch every time she stepped foot on it.

Kabita’s Glory Days

In 2012, Kabita’s career leaped. 5 players from Lahan were selected to represent the country in the Under-19 Women Cricket tournament in Kuwait, and Kabita was one of the players that got selected. This was massive news not only to Kabita but for the whole village of Lahan. For Kabita, it was like her and her parents’ dreams were coming true. It was a stepping stone to a whole career ahead in cricket for Kabita, and she surely must’ve dreamt of sustaining her family through her career in the sport.

Kabita in the ground where she grew up learning to play Cricket

Kabita and the team not only participated in the tournament but came out victorious. The Nepali national team won the U-19 Women’s Championship in Kuwait, and Kabita played a vital role in the tournament, also getting the Player Of The Match award in one of the matches leading up to the final. One would think that a player playing for the national squad would earn a significant amount of money, but the reality is that the players got a measly Rs. 30,000 for the whole tournament. Kabita gave all of the 30 Thousand to her parents keeping none for herself. The Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) gave the players Rs. 20,000 for the win and the government gave the players Rs. 100,000. Kabita used that money to take the mortgage out of her house and then she was left on square one.

National women cricket team in 2012

Without cricket, Kabita had very little to live on again. By pure luck, she got into the Women’s Cricket League (WCL) in Nepal after a player injured her arm and was out for the tournament. Kabita did her best and proved her critics wrong after her wonderful performances won her the Best Bowler award. It was quite the story- a player who was rejected by so many teams got selected only because of an injury and went on to win the best bowler award. However, after that tournament again, she had no means of earning.

The Big Injury To The Leg, Life & Passion

National team players in Nepal rarely get monthly salaries- in fact, some players don’t even get paid at all. Most players only get their wages for the tournament they play in and they are left without money after the tournament is over. Kabita’s luck took a steep downhill when she got injured playing in the Mayor Cup tournament. This leg injury meant that she would not be able to participate in tournaments for few years, thus stopping her only source of income. After her checkup, there was more bad news as the doctor told her she would take six months to walk properly and a year and a half at least to get back on the pitch. 

This sudden injury put Kabita back under financial crisis. At a time when she was supposed to be sustaining her family through her income, she had to walk on crutches and needed the support of her mother to do even the basics of things. Since her father had injured his leg as well, it was all up to her mother to look after both of them. Kabita was even left to mend her own wounds as she had no money to even have a visit to the doctor.

When The State Forgets Its Heros

In a country where a national-level player is left with no income when injured, anyone would ask questions about the government. Kabita’s story was covered by Herne Katha, a documentary-styled youtube channel that tells the stories of various personalities of Nepal. Kabita says in the documentary that she now feels that only cricket cannot sustain her family and that she will be looking for permanent jobs instead. Only after her story coverage in Herne Katha, Kabita finally got some attention. However, it still wasn’t from the government. She was provided with Rs. 100,000 to care for her injuries by the Cricket Players Association Nepal (CPAN). Hopefully, with that amount, Kabita can get back to her feet and start providing for her family again.

Kabita’s story is one of many. A lot of athletes in Nepal are paid very little and they only play the sport for the love of it. Athletes spend most of their best years in life on the sport they love, however, the players earn very little during that time and then do not even have a source of income after they retire. Bipendra Maharjan, a former basketball player of Nepal, captained the national team for over a decade. That gained him recognition in the sporting field and made him a household name. However, he was only given a certificate of appreciation and Rs. 5000 when he retired. In an interview that caused a stir in Nepal, it was revealed that the All Nepal Football Association’s staff members get Rs. 1 Lakh as a salary while the players who put their heart and soul on the ground got paid Rs. 18 Thousand for the SAFF Championship.

To put things into perspective, their neighboring country India pays their players handsomely. In a recent interview, former cricketer Aakash Chopra revealed that Test players get paid Rs. 7 lakh for a double century, meaning 200 runs, and Rs. 5 lakh for a century. For the bowlers, a five-wicket haul would earn them Rs. 5 lakh. On top of that, a national team player earns up to Rs. 7 crores per year regardless of the number of games the player plays. This is a massive difference compared to Nepal, where players rarely get paid yearly or monthly.

Even after retirement, players in India still have a lot of opportunities to earn through the sport. Some former players get into commentary, while some get into analysis for big sports shows. Compared to this, Nepal’s athletes barely get a fraction of the money that Indian players get.

The sports scenario does have some positives happening. The establishment of more domestic leagues has given players hope of earning more money and recognition. Some sports stars have started earning up to Rs. 90,000 a month. While this does sound lucrative for a player in Nepal, it is very rare to earn that amount and a player of sports other than cricket or football cannot imagine earning that amount.

It seems like it is one step forward, two steps backward in the sports sector in Nepal. There is a lot of political interference in sports in Nepal and Nepal football team’s current coach, Abdullah Al Mutairi has publicly spoken about it as well. Nepal’s government also recently decided to decrease the budget in sports by almost Rs. 1 Arba, equivalent to almost 8 Million USD. This shows the disparity of the government towards sports in Nepal. This budget that was decreased was promised to be put into developing the infrastructure of Nepal but there has been nothing to show for it.

One cannot help but feel for the athletes in Nepal. They train all their lives, put their body on the line and give their blood and sweat to the sport only to get disappointed by their government. Such is the situation of sports in Nepal that rarely any parent wants their child to become a sports player. Parents want their children to focus on other stuff rather than sports and this is one of the big reasons why Nepali sports lag behind in development.

You see passionate players on every corner of the streets, who would for sure turn out to be amazing players if they were to be groomed properly, but since the government does very little to encourage such players to follow their passion, their spark to become a player slowly diminishes and countless potential stars are lost because of the government’s incompetence.

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Suprad Budhathoki
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