“We Were Just Praying”: U-14 Girls Football Team Recounts Horror

As the U-14 girls’ football team returns from Nepal, their assistant coach recounts horrors of the quake.

Published
India
3 min read
India’s U-14 Girls’ Football Team comes out of IGI Airport after being evacuated from Nepal by a special IAF aircraft.

The Indian U-14 girls’ football team landed safely at IGI Airport in New Delhi on Sunday evening. But the nightmarish experience of having spent around 24 hours in the middle of a massive earthquake in Kathmandu would haunt the team forever. Assistant coach of the safely-evacuated team, Shraddhanjali Samantaray provided a most harrowing narrative to The Quint.

We were in our dressing rooms getting ready for our match on Saturday morning. Suddenly we heard a banging sound and the electricity snapped off... the entire building was shaking. We realised it was an earthquake. Our coach shouted at us, urging us to move out and we all started rushing out.
– Shraddhanjali Samantaray, Assistant Coach, U-14 Girls’ Football Team, India

Shraddhanjali Samantaray, Assistant Coach, U-14 Girls’ Football Team of India (Photo: Orissadiary.com)
Shraddhanjali Samantaray, Assistant Coach, U-14 Girls’ Football Team of India (Photo: Orissadiary.com)

The U-14 girls’ football squad members were preparing to face Iran at Dasrath stadium for a third-place play-off in the Asian Football Confederation regional challenge, when the quake hit Nepal on Saturday.

Running out of the dressing room as the quake hit was one of the scariest experiences the team would ever face.

It was scary to run out of the dressing rooms as the building was shaking. We were trying to run fast but kept stepping back as the passage of the building was shaking severely. One of our players was banged to the wall while we were running towards the field – she got off with a minor injury. We just about managed to reach the field of the stadium.
– Shraddhanjali Samantaray, Assistant Coach, U-14 Girls’ Football Team, India

Samantaray further went on to recall how theirs was the first team to reach the field, having already been on the ground floor. The sight that greeted them, however, did little to assure confidence.

“We saw the stadium building shaking”, the former captain of the Indian women’s football team reminisced fervently. “The main gate of Dasrath stadium came crashing down in front of us. It was a traumatic sight and we were just praying”.

The U-14 Girls’ Football Team  was in Kathmandu to take part in an AFC regional tournament (Photo: AIFF)
The U-14 Girls’ Football Team was in Kathmandu to take part in an AFC regional tournament (Photo: AIFF)

There can be little doubt that coach Rocky Maymol and deputy Shraddhanjali had more than enough on their plate, handling a team of young and terrified teenage girls.

It was a traumatic experience for our girls – they had never experienced anything like this before. For girls aged between 12 and 14 years of age, to experience buildings around them shaking and feel tremors – was absolutely terrifying. We were scared ourselves but we kept trying to pacify them.
– Shraddhanjali Samantaray, Assistant Coach, U-14 Girls’ Football Team, India

After staying holed up in the stadium for around five hours, the team finally managed to make their way back to the hotel. The hotel View Bhrikuti had developed minor cracks only, Samantaray recalls. “We had to spend Saturday night outside the hotel fearing aftershocks. There was no network. I first rang up a friend in Gujarat and informed her that we were all safe”.

18 players and five support staff members landed at the Delhi airport on an IAF Aircraft C-17 on Sunday evening.

Read more on the Nepal earthquake.

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