29 May 2017

On Saturday 25th April 2017, a deadly earthquake hit Nepal killing nearly 9,000 people and injuring around 22,000. Two years hence, the Nepalese table tennis team, affected by the calamity, is on duty at the 2017 Liebherr World Championships. With passion for the sport and the desire to be the best, they flash big smiles as they compete.

By Neha Aggarwal

On a bright Monday morning, Monday 29th May 2017 in Düsseldorf, four passionate players from Nepal were on duty at the table tennis arena, fighting hard for every point, playing the game like its religion.

You could hardly figure out that they are the same people who were affected by the deadly earthquake that hit Nepal in two years back. It destroyed their homes, disrupted the normality of life, and everything came to a stand still.

But today, at Messe Düsseldorf, the arena for the ongoing Liebherr 2017 World Championships, they were fighting a different battle.

“My house was destroyed in the earthquake but now everything is back to normal. I am so excited to be here, I just want to do best here, and win some good matches,” said Siva Gothe, who played his first match partnering Swechchha Nembang in the mixed doubles. “Its my third time at the World Championships, we learn so much here, player attitudes, training methods and the overall feel of the championship is brilliant,” he continued.

Despite loosing their opening match against the stronger pair of Dexter St Louis and Rheann Chung from Trinidad and Tobago, Gothe was all smiles, clearly enjoying the feeling of being part of this prestigious event.

The other pair on duty was Amar Malla and Nabita Shrestha who won their opening match against Mahbub Billah and Moumita Alam of Bangladesh in straight games (3-0).

“We have played Bangladesh many times as we are from the same region. Its my fifth time at the World Championships. Its thrilling to take part here, you can get a ranking and see it on the ITTF website, it feels great that way,” said the very bubbly Nabita Shrestha.

Nabita is 25, and a passionate athlete. She has been representing Nepal at the international arena since she was a junior and is now one of the most experienced players of the country.

“Until last year, there was a fear that the earthquake will come back, but now life is back to normal. My old house was destroyed, it definitely affected us. My table tennis training was also affected. Those we scary times, and I am so glad they are over.”- Nabita Shrestha.

Passion is evident in action. And the man behind bringing the team to Düsseldorf is Rajvaidya Chaturananda, the President of All Nepal Table Tennis Association. “Bangladesh is spending more money on the athletes than what we do, but look, we beat them today; it feels great. I am a businessman by profession but I am very passionate for the game. I have spent the money from my own pocket to bring these players to Düsseldorf and their victory is rewarding,” he said.

“Out target is to be the second best in the South Asian region. We can beat Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan. India is really good at the moment, but we are working hard on it.”- Rajvaidya Chaturananda , the President of All Nepal Table Tennis Association.

The ITTF launched a three-year Para table tennis project in Nepal on Wednesday 6th April 2016 in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP). Called ‘Table Tennis for NepALL’ the aim is to support children with impairments in the country.

“We have six districts, and there are so many players now taking the sport up. Due to the Table Tennis for NepALL project, many players, both able bodied and para, have been taking up the sport and it’s a great tool for the development of the game in the country,”Chaturananda added.

Meeting the team felt like meeting your own people, the warmth and liveliness that they players have is just magical. One cannot even fathom the pain of the families affected in the deadly earthquake two years back. Their passion for the game goes beyond just winning or loosing, it clearly sends a message to the world:

It’s not about winning or loosing, it’s participation that matters the most.

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