Wheelchair basketball for the win
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Inclusive sport gets good participation and enjoys success in Kathmandu, Nepal, with the first edition of the country's first wheelchair basketball league. Read on for a detailed narrative by co-founder of ENGAGE, Inclusive Change Through Volunteering, Simone Galimberti.

On Saturday 9 July 2016, the Turkish Airlines ENGAGE Empowering League ended on a high note with an incredible final game. The National Army Team had to fight against a strong adversary, the Jawalakhel Wheelchair Sport Club, J.W.S.C.

Created just two years ago and a unique example of intergenerational inclusiveness as the team’s captain is fifty years old and the youngest players are only seventeen years old, J.W.S.C. now poses an incredible threat to the dominance of the army team, who has never lost a game in its entire history.

The final game played on Saturday ended with 33 points for the army and 28 for J.W.S.C.

The army only managed to prevail in the final minutes after J.W.S.C had come back and took advantage for few minutes before the army “killed” the game with an incredible basket from Raju Katuwal, the league’s highest scorer and the co-winner of the male MVP (he shared the MVP title with Prem K.C., a young but extremely talented player from J.W.S.C.).

The winner of the female title was Wheelchair Basketball Association, W.S.A., with an irresistible Jyoti Aryal who won both the top scorer title and also the MVP trophy.

Played over seven weeks, with games held on every Saturday with six male and three female teams competing, the Turkish Airlines ENGAGE Empowering League has been a success. We were able to bring together different partners, starting from the Ministry of Youths and Sport, Turkish Airlines and the Embassy of Switzerland together with Navyo Nepal Asia Travel, Century Bank, Civil Bank, Hero, D-Style Group.

If the opening held on 28 May was a bit disappointing in terms of audience, the final game instead had more than 300 spectators, including school children, scouts, family members and other people passionate about sports. Interesting and critical to the success of the league, the media also took notice of the event and started covering it.

Yet there is still so much to be done to create awareness about wheelchair basketball and inclusive sports in general and while we got a couple of feature stories and one TV show covering the league and the players, the press coverage of the final game was still a bit disappointing.

We need to think about new ways to create an audience, to ensure that inclusive sports can be fully appreciated and mainstreamed into the society.

This is a shortened and edited version of the original article.





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