Seven years ago, when the Nepal national team returned home after winning the ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Division three, thousands of Nepalese cricket fans showed up at the Tribhuvan International Airport, to welcome their heroes.
By then, Nepal had their historic stint in the maiden ICC World T20 in Bangladesh, victorious against Afghanistan and Hong Kong at the global event, but short on points to reach Super 10s by a narrow NRR margin.
As the fans waited for the team’s arrival at the airport, they chanted a slogan: ‘Tundikhel ma khelera, World Cup khelna sakinna’ – We can’t play the World Cup, by just playing at the Tundikhel.
The Tundikhel is an open space at the heart of Kathmandu city, where local cricketers gather on the weekends to play cricket. This slogan humorously addressed stakeholders in failing to construct a proper cricket stadium despite Nepal producing good results on several occasions.
Fast-forward four years, the Nepal Cricket Team gained ODI status in 2018 with a miraculous performance in Namibia at WCL2. This achievement not only brought new hopes to Nepalese cricket fans, but also inspired a humanitarian organisation, the Dhurmus Suntali Foundation, to take a lead on another major project, Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium (GBICS).
Dhurmus Suntali Foundation
The Dhurmus Suntali Foundation was founded by two, arguably the most loved comedy duo from national television, Sitaram Kattel aka ‘Dhurmus’ and Kunjana Ghimire aka ‘Suntali’. When Nepal was hit by one of the deadliest earthquakes in 2015, the two were on their visit to America, for a stage show. As soon as they knew about the earthquake, they returned back to Nepal and commenced their humanitarian activities in earthquake-affected areas, providing relief materials.
The actor duo then realised the need for the construction of permanent shelters to the earthquake-hit victims and appealed for financial help from their national and international Nepalese well-wishers. The helping hands ‘unexpectedly’ turned up in large numbers for their support and helped them in the successful accomplishment of a project called ‘Integrated Model Pahari Settlement’ in the Kavre District.
Later after the project, they officially registered the Dhurmus Suntali Foundation based on their stage names. Having succeeded in their first project, and being officially registered, they actively carried on their social works in re-constructing the villages for the underprivileged community and provided relief materials to the flood victims in Sindhupalchok district. With an aim to unite people of different communities and cultures, they have successfully reconstructed Musahar Basti, and Giranchaur Namuna Basti, a model village.
Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium (GBICS)
With the Nepal national team representing their country at the highest level of the game (ICC WT20 in Bangladesh), gaining ODI status, and emerging as an emerging powerhouse in cricket, the foundation felt the need for a fully-fledged international cricket stadium. After successfully completing their three projects, the Dhurmus Suntali Foundation signed an MOU with the Bharatpur Metropolitan area on the 30th of January 2019, in presence of the Nepalese Prime Minister, reaching an agreement to construct the GBICS within two years and hand it over to Bharatpur Metropolitan area.
During the signing of the MOU with Bharatpur Municipality, Sitaram Kattel (Dhurmus) addressed the local media.
‘We also want to give a message that it is not impossible to complete any project on time if we work hard. We will construct a stadium in the typical Nepali style which will reflect our culture. And we would also like to assure all the contributors that your hard-earned money, not even a single penny shall be misused in this project.’
After gaining national and international recognition from its first three projects, the foundation took a lead in the construction of GBICS, their mega-project with a capacity of 30,000, in Chitwan. With hundreds and thousands of Nepalese cricket fans supporting the cause, hundreds of fans volunteering with free labor, the project started. Several programs were (and still are) conducted to raise the funds inside the outside the country.
After one year of construction, the dream of national cricketers and fans of the country seems to have taken shape. The national tournaments like the Gautam Buddha T20 Cup and a charity-based tournament Star Cricket 2021 have been already hosted in the GBICS and were sponsored by the foundation with the message ‘Let’s play for construction’.
‘The model ground is itself a witness of entertainment and enthusiasm of both cricketers and celebrities who always inspired us and gave the courage to reach our mission,’ the foundation says.
According to the foundation, the stadium is divided into four major sections as stand A, stand B, VIP Tower 1 and VIP Tower 2. Among these, the construction of stand A and stand B is at the peak to this date. Civil works up to plinth level (substructure) of both the stands have been completed. Simultaneously, the construction of the superstructure part on both stands is in full swing. The foundation, the ground area along with the frontline parapet work will be completed within this year.
‘More precisely, we are aiming to complete a mini parapet work (with 3000 spectators) by the end of this year’, the foundation informed their commitment to Emerging Cricket.
Similarly, the foundation stated that the structure work under the parapet area including the substructure works of two towers will be completed within five to six months.
‘RCC works of footings, beams, and columns (i.e. remaining 76 numbers out of 362) and stone masonry works up to plinth level have been already completed. The superstructure work of the whole stadium, including the total framed structure, is expected to be completed within 18 months from now.’
As per the foundation, 20% of the total work of the GBICS has been completed.
Challenges faced by the foundation
The major challenges faced by the GBICS is its liquidity crisis and of course the impact of Covid-19 to successfully organise its fundraising campaign. According to the foundation, the total estimated budget of the project according to its Detailed Project Report (DPR) is NRs. 3.55 Billion (Around US $30,384,000), out of which NRs 43,48,06382.23 (Around US $3,721,500) has been already invested in the project. Out of this investment, the foundation has recorded a sum of NRs. 119,151,555.00 (Nearly US $1,019,800) on their account as the investment from the local and federal government. However, the foundation is unsure about the total investment that will be shared by the government side until the completion of the project.
The major source of the foundation is its crowdfunding, charities, and other fundraising campaigns out of which it has raised a sum of around NRs. 203,872,799.80 (US $1,745,000) until now. However, the foundation says that the committed amount from fundraising campaigns (Dhana Dhanyanchal Parba) has not been fully received yet, and this deficit amount has been hindering the developmental works of GBICS. The foundation said that it still lacks around NRs 3.11 Billion (As per its DPR) to successfully accomplish the project.
‘However, with all the safety measures applied, 85% of the groundwork and 30% is the total project work have been completed with a total number of 265 employees working daily on this project right now,’ the foundation reflected.
Endorsement of the project by the national cricketers
The national cricketers of Nepal have been actively endorsing the project and have been appealing to the fans, followers, and well-wishers to contribute to this project. Former captain Paras Khadka remarks time and again that it’s his dream to retire from his long career by playing an international match in Gautam Buddha Stadium. When Nepal played its first One Day International series at home in 2020, Sandeep Lamichhane tweeted: ‘I want Nepal cricket to be a force to reckoned with. To invest in this dream, I will be donating 8,848 Rupees for every wicket I’d take in our games against the USA and Oman, from Febuary 5 to 12. Nepal’s Gautam Buddha International cricket stadium will soon be a reality. #JaiNepal #MyDream.’
In the same tournament, many fans decided to donate funds to the project according to performances of their beloved cricket stars. The more runs and wickets, the more donations to the foundation.
The foundation has come up with a new initiative to raise funds for the stadium. In a ceremony held a week ago, it announced that anyone (nationals or internationals) willing to write names of themselves, family, company, foundation, organisation, on the seats of the stadium can donate NRs 0.1 Million (USD $ 856) for the cause, and secure a seat with their names. One of the renowned fan groups Nepal Cricket Fans on Facebook (NCFF) recently acquired seat number 77, the jersey number of legendary Paras Khadka, to support the cause. The foundation states that any well-wishers of Nepal Cricket, located anywhere in the world, can join this campaign by contributing or promoting the cause.
‘We request the non-Nepalese citizens to support the campaign, organise regional and international level sports events and programs and join us in our fundraising campaign. Along with this, your feedback and suggestions will be vital in our nation-building campaign to promote peace, development, and solidarity through sports,’ co-founder of the foundation Dhurmus urged.
‘We have the vision to ensure international harmony, integration, coordination, and support each other through sports’, he adds.
Sitaram Kattel (Dhurmus) believes that the GBICS will be able to host a match of an international standard by this time next year if everything goes well.
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