Kathmandu: On Saturday, Nepal’s national men’s football team faced off Mauritius in a friendly at Dasarath Rangasala, Kathmandu. Hosts Nepal registered a 1-0 win but not everyone wanting to watch the match live at the stadium could do so. Considering the rapid surge of Omicron variant of the coronavirus and following the government’s health protocol, All Nepal Football Association, the football governing body of Nepal, allowed only one-third of the audience in the stadium to watch the match.
On the same day, there was also a final match of the 20th Aaha Rara Gold Cup, one of Nepal’s most anticipated footballing events, in Pokhara Stadium. The final took place between Manang Marshyangdi and APF. It was one of the most happening final matches of the Aaha Rara Gold Cup. The departmental team defeated ‘A’ Division giants Manang Marshyangdi Club 5-4 in the penalty shootout. But the intense final also missed many live football fans as the Pokhara Stadium had only one-third of the audience. Prior to the semi-final and final of the cup, all the matches were held without the audience. This time, the Gold Cup was bereft of the vibrant atmosphere of yesteryears.
The pandemic has also affected the ongoing Martyr’s Memorial ‘A’ Division League. One of its matches, in the 9th round, between Nepal Police Club and Chyasal Youth Club was postponed after 19 players of Chyasal were tested positive before the match. Currently, the league is in the FIFA break. ANFA has announced the postponed match will be held on Saturday.
Likewise, ANFA has also postponed the National Women’s league indefinitely. Eight teams are fixed to compete in the league. The postponement has automatically affected ‘B’ Division and ‘C’ Division leagues, which were supposed to take place only after the end of the women’s league.
Moreover, football matches that were scheduled outside the valley are also affected. Martyr’s Memorial Gold Cup in Hetauda and Khaptad Gold Cup in Dhangadhi have already been canceled.
There are various other sports that are affected due to the ongoing pandemic. Many national and international events were about to take place but they were postponed. Likewise, the sports persons and officials were also infected by the virus.
Currently, the men’s cricket team of Nepal is preparing for the global qualifier of the T20 World Cup taking place in Oman in February. But as some players are in isolation due to Covid, they are unable to attend the training.
Nepal was all set to participate in the South Asian Cross Country Championships, slated from January 15 in Nagaland, India but the organizers postponed it until further notice.
Likewise, Nepal also missed a chance to participate in ASBC Asian Under-22 Boxing Championships, held from January 20 in Uzbekistan. Sushma Tamang of Nepal was selected for the championship but as she tested positive for coronavirus, she could not participate and Nepal missed a chance to represent itself.
Similarly, various other national sports events are also postponed due to the pandemic.
The 10km KTM Run, announced for January, has been postponed until February 26.
Likewise, Jhiltung Cross Country Race, an annual sports event, scheduled for January 22, in Nuwakot, has also been postponed until further notice by the organizers. The 11th Purnaman Bajracharya Memorial Table Tennis Competition that was supposed to take place from January 15 has also been postponed.
The new variant’s impact on the country’s sports scene stretches far and wide, and there appears to be no end in sight.