Remembering departed football fans

KATHMANDU: Sanjib Mishra was watching football match between Janakpur Cigarette Factory Ltd and Liberation Army for the 1988 Tribhuvan Challenge Shield at Dashrath Stadium. It was March 12, 1988 and he was 17 years old. The weather was “fine but suddenly there was a hailstorm”. Sheltering himself under a banner, he went from the B10 gate (from where he was watching the game) towards parapet to save himself.

Mishra was safe but around 93 people lost their lives in a stampede after the occurrence of unexpected hailstorm in the Capital. Commemorating the same incident and praying for the departed souls, Real Madrid Fan Club in association with other football fan clubs organised ‘2044 Dasarath Disaster Commemoration’ programme at Dasarath Stadium, Tripureshwor on March 12.

Hundreds of football fans had gathered in the stadium to mark the day. Each of them took a candle, lit it and marched together towards the southern part of the stadium where the incident had occurred. A minute’s silence in the memory of the departed souls was observed at the event.

The candles arranged in ‘2044 - 93’ shape under the parapet were also lit to remember the date and number of the deaths.

Recalling the unfortunate day, Mishra now Assistant General Secretary of All Nepal Football Association (ANFA) shared, “People ran to the stadium’s exit and many died in the stampede as the gates weren’t opened on time. I knew that I shouldn’t run in such situation, so I took a refuge in an open space. The weather was clear after an hour but the remaining match never took place.”

Indra Man Tuladhar, CEO of ANFA also became nostalgic. He said, “I was at home when the incident occurred. The weather changed all of a sudden and there was hailstorm. When I heard the news, I came to the Stadium and also went to Bir Hospital. The stadium was similar to that of a crematorium then and dead bodies were piled up in the hospital.”

As per him, the football association decided to keep gates open during matches after that incident.

The programme was not all about commemorating the incident but was organised to make people aware about such incidents. “People have forgotten the incident and we want to aware people that such incidents can occur in the future as well. We hope that the audiences could prevent themselves during such disasters,” Ujjwal KC Vice President at Real Madrid Fan Club informed.