26 April, New Delhi
The Indian Under-14 girls football team, left stranded in Kathmandu following fresh tremors on Sunday, have returned home safely aboard a military aircraft.
“The U-14 Girl’s Team has landed safely in New Delhi. Everyone stays safe,” the All India Football Federation (AIFF) tweeted.
Fresh tremors on Sunday delayed the evacuation of the team from the earthquake-affected Nepal capital. An aircraft that was to bring the stranded team back was scheduled to leave Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport at 12.30 p.m.
But fresh tremors — following Saturday’s devastating 7.9 temblor — led to the flight being delayed, leaving the team — comprising 18 players and five officials — waiting at the airport.
AIFF president Praful Patel tweeted on Sunday that the players would be staying the night in Delhi and will proceed to their respective homes on Monday.
“I thank God for looking after us and for keeping us safe. The earthquake was a frightening experience for everybody including me and obviously the players,” Rocky Maymol, team head coach, said shortly after landing.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had earlier tweeted that evacuating the girls was the government’s priority.
The team was in Kathmandu to participate in the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Regional Championship for the South and Central Zone. It was scheduled to face Iran in a third-fourth place playoff match at 1 p.m. at the Dashrath Stadium on Saturday.
But an hour prior to the scheduled kick-off, the massive earthquake forced the abandonment of the match and the final. India lost to hosts Nepal in the semi-finals on Friday.
“We were warming up when the calamity struck and we could see the destruction of the buildings and the stadium gate. It was a horrific scene, but the girls handled it bravely,” Rocky said.
The team spent Saturday night outside their hotel rooms at Hotel View Bhrikuti and slept in the hotel compound as a precautionary measure.