On 12/29/18 SKCharities and Go Sports Nepal hosted the All-Girls SDG soccer (football) tournament in Kathmandu, Nepal. I left the hotel around 6:45 am and headed towards the soccer field at NEPS (Nepalaya English Public School).
The road we traveled on was undeveloped. There were potholes everywhere and the air quality was very poor. The taxi driver had a 1ft long chain hanging from his rearview mirror that kept swinging back and forth, clashing with the mirror everytime because the potholes were very deep. The air pollution was worse than the pollution from the California Wildfires in November that caused our school to be canceled.
When I exited the taxi, I immediately felt the freezing cold air that was about 40ºF.
In the school, there was no soccer field, but a big dirt slab in the middle of the small campus that represented the soccer field. To the left, there was a small worn down basketball court and to the right were the classrooms that were no bigger than a 10ft by 12ft room.
We walked towards the principal of the school’s room and saw our bags there. The room was cluttered with books, bags, couches, tables, and it was smaller than a 7 ft by 7 ft room. My father, the volunteers, and I quickly started working on sorting out the jerseys. The girls were arriving in about 30 minutes so we had to have everything ready for them. Soon Mr. Sunil Shrestha (the founder of Go Sports Nepal) came and introduced us to Mr. Buddhas Shreshta, the principal. After our quick introductions, we continued to get back to work of sorting out the gear. After that, we decided how to hand out the prizes and who would get the prizes. We decided on the following awards:
- Best Player
- Top Scorer
- Winning Team
- Goalies in the semifinals
- Coaches in semis
By the time every team showed up, all the jerseys were out. The captains of each tame came to gather the jerseys and then distributed them to their team. There was a total of 16 teams with 10 players each. The games were set up to be 7 vs 7 and each team had 3 subs. The games were all elimination, so if a team lost, they went home. It would go from 16 teams to 8 teams to 4 teams to 2 teams for the finals. The games were scheduled to be 10 minutes each half. If the score was tied at the end, it would go into penalty kicks. However, later we changed the games to being 5 minutes each half because there were too many games and they were all taking too long.
While the girls were lined up on the field after they had received their jerseys and worn then, Mr. Sunil Shrestha gave them a brief introduction to SKCharities, Go Sports Nepal and the tournament in their local language.
The girls were all about 4ft tall even though they were 10-18 years of age. Most of them had never played before and just started playing to participate in the tournament. All the girls seemed to know each other and all of them were excited to play. They were all very friendly, too.
After his brief introduction, Mr. Sunil gave the mic to me and I did a quick speech about concussions as I spread awareness about concussions through SKCharities too. Although it was English and they only understood a bit of what I was saying, they all listened and a few of them asked me questions afterward.
The games began and the girls were fighting to win. Although some of them had never played before, all of them were determined to win and were focused on one thing: scoring.
The games went by one by one and teams were being eliminated. There were multiple times that we went into penalty kicks. In fact, one of the games there were about 15 penalty kicks that happened per team as both teams kept either missing or both scoring. It was very exciting and it was nail-biting to see which team would ultimately fall. Sadly, one team missed and were eliminated.
While all the games were happening, there was a group of girls that came to talk to me. They were very inviting and although they did not speak English as their first language, they were very fluent and easily spoke to me. They were a group of best friends that asked me questions about myself and taught me a lot about their lives and in Nepal. They made tons of jokes and also communicated to my dad in Hindi. What really inspired me about them was that they were fearless off and on the field. They did not care about what others thought of them and how they played but were only focused on winning. They were open to being themselves and did not restrict themselves or shy away from meeting new people. This was especially astonishing because in Nepal women do not get a lot of opportunities. They even explained how they felt inequality within their own household as their older brothers were treated with more respect and given more opportunities than them. They even explained how at their school, the teachers did not endorse sports for girls but rather pushed girls towards singing and dancing while the boys were given a large number of funds to pursue the sport of their liking. They told me they were extremely grateful for the opportunity to play soccer because they all loved playing, but never got the chance. They told me how the only chance they had gotten was through this program as their coaches finally pushed them towards playing soccer to win the tournament for the school.
The girls are brilliant and very talented young women that deserve more than what they can afford. They love playing sports and should be given the opportunities to play what they want and not be restricted because of societal expectations. Women are always seen as housekeepers, but they are worth more and also love playing sports. There were so many great players and leaders that I witnessed at this tournament that could receive Division 1 scholarships in the United States. However, they are not given opportunities to play and get trained at high-level competitions. Instead, their high-quality play and passion are faded away into work for men.
I was especially surprised because I never saw the love that these young women have for sports. They were not afraid of anything and played because of pure passion. There was no pressure and there was no system to follow, only to play how you like and play because you like it. This was really amazing to me because I never thought that this type of passion existed. In almost all the sports that I have played, I have always dreaded going to practice and playing because the games came more about needing to win and following a system rather than playing to your standards. I lost creativity and became scared to try anything new or fail because the standards were so high that failure was just not an option. There was more pressure to do better and become the best that I could not play my game but played as a robot for my coaches. It was eye-opening to see that pure passion again of playing sports because you love it, not because you are forced to do so.
The semis came soon then the finals and it was about 5:00 pm. It was freezing and the girls were about to play their 4th game of the day, but this did not stop them from playing. It was the red team vs the white team. They lined up along the slide line, as usual, got pictures taken of them. Then they walked out in a line to the center of the field, lined up across the field and waved both to the back and the front to all their fans. Then the coin flipped and the decisions were being made and the game finally began.
It was an intense game, but there was one obvious winner because there was only one girl that stood out and carried her team to the finals. The white team won the tournament.
Thanks to all the volunteers and Mr. Sunil Shrestha for hosting this tournament with SKCharities!