As usual, life in Kathmandu tosses up some odd opportunities. Last week I had the pleasure of playing practice games of netball against the national Nepali Netball team.
This was the result of my expat friend phoning the Nepali Netball Association, whose number she found on the internet, to enquire into social weekly netball games. She was informed that no, there is no social competition – in fact, none at all – but would she like to coach the national team? In less than six weeks, my friend and her boyfriend (who learned netball coaching strategies from YouTube clips) have selected and coached a crack team of young Nepali girls aged between 18-22 years, six days a week in how to play the noble game of netty, just in time for participation in the Asian Netball Championship to be held in Sri Lanka next week.
As part of their preparation, a motley bunch of expats from Commonwealth countries (where netball is actually played, inherited from the UK) were recruited to form an opposition team for the national team to practice against.
They were good. Quite good. Although it may seem a case of Cool Runnings Nepali-style, these girls are fit, determined and kick-ass, their ball skills and team play damn good considering some first picked up a netball six weeks ago.
But what really got me was the camaraderie I could feel radiating from the team. Our first practice game we arrived at the stadium ready to play, and the whole thing was unpredictably set up as a taekwondo pitch, the whole court covered end to end in platforms, kick-bags, mats and heavy taekwondo-ey things bolted together- it looked a bit like any pre music festival set-up. With ne’er a moment’s hesitation, the girls were into it, dismantling great platforms, unbolting things, dragging and heaving everything off the court. Damn hard work. And then we played a full game against them.
The next practice game, a bunch of taekwondo guys were loitering about, mulling over their heavy equipment (shoved to the sidelines by the girls). When it became apparent a group of young Nepali girls in sports gear were going to play, off came the mens’ shirts and their volume as a group increased with not-so-subtle glances at the girls. Suddenly it was paramount for them to interrupt the girls’ game, shifting furniture about on the court. Yet the girls bossed the boys off the court and played on, intent on their game and practice.
It seems simplistic, but having seen what the team members have accomplished in such a short period and the pride they clearly have both in themselves and as a team, is inspiring, and one of the best examples of women’s empowerment I’ve seen in Nepal.
Next week when the girls go to the Championship in Sri Lanka, they will be competing against some of the best in Asia. For some, this will be their first time out of Nepal. They are going without family members, which is a massive thing for young unmarried girls here and they will be representing their country. When they come back, there is talk that they will take netball back to their schools and communities, and establish netball at the grassroots level.
Let’s give it up for Nepal’s first national netball team!
(image of netball in the public domain)