Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar/New Delhi, Apr 26:
India’s Under-14 girls football team, which has five women footballers from Odisha including deputy coach Shraddhanjali Samantray, returned safely from earthquake ravaged Kathmandu and reached New Delhi this afternoon.
The four players from Odisha, along with assistant coach Shraddhanjali, would arrive at Bhubaneswar at 9 am tomorrow, an official of the Football Association of Odisha (FAO) informed.
The footballers and team officials arrived at the Delhi airport at around 4.55 pm today; their evacuation was delayed by a few hours due to fresh tremors in the Nepalese capital around noon today.
Four footballers from Odisha – Janaki Murmu, Iva Panna, Banya Kabiraj and Shanti Murmu – and the national team’s deputy coach and former captain of the Indian Women football team Shraddhanjali Samantray were part of the India Under 14 team that had gone to Kathmandu to participate in the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Regional Championship for the South and Central Zone.
“It occurred at a time when we were about to play the match. We were in the dressing room at the stadium. Initially, we did not realise what had happened. We felt as if we are moving from one place to another. We felt scared and, without knowing what to do, rushed into the middle of the stadium. We thank everybody for their prayers. It is only because of their prayers that we are back safe here today,” said Shraddhanjali Samantray, speaking to reporters at the airport on her arrival here.
“We had a difficult time. We were very much scared, the houses had developed cracks. We have somehow managed to rush back home,” said Shanti Murmu, a member of the team.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had earlier tweeted that the government has prioritized the evacuation of the team. “We will evacuate India’s U-14 girls’ football team on priority.”
Amid the ruin all around, Shraddhanjali had managed to convey the news that all members of the team and the support staff were fine yesterday itself.
She first called up her friend Priyanka Kaushik in Gujarat to inform that all team members and staff were safe. Later she called her father Netrananda Samantray in the night.
The team, which was in Kathmandu to play in the AFC South-Central regional competition, had escaped unhurt as it had left the hotel where it had been put up for the Dasarathi Stadium at about 11 am, nearly two hours before the disaster struck, to play a match against Iran for the third/fourth place.
The tournament was cancelled after the earthquake.
Like the football players, four others from Odisha who were undergoing training in mountaineering in the Himalayas also escaped unhurt. Luckily for them, their training at the Pahalgam base camp on the Kashmir side was over on Friday, a day before tragedy struck.
The four trainees are Romanchal Bhoi and Satyapriya Pradhan of Kalahandi district and Deepika Seth and Salim Darka of Bargarh district.