By Susil Premalal
The National Olympic Committee of Sri Lanka (NOCSL) and the Ministry of Sports has decided to participate in netball at the 2021 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.
Organised by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) every four years, the sixth edition of the Games is scheduled to be held from May 21 to 31 in Thailand in the city of Bangkok or Chonburi.
Over 45 countries from Asia are expected to participate in this Festival which will be conducted in 23 disciplines.
Sri Lanka is expected to compete in 10 sports at this event but it has not been decided what the disciplines would be. This will be the first time the Sri Lanka Netball Team would be participating at the Asian Indoor Games.
Following the decision of the NOC to send a netball team for the Games, the Netball Federation of Sri Lanka (NFSL) has decided to select a 20-member National Pool in preparation for the event.
The National Pool players are currently training at home under the supervision of Assistant Coach P. D. Prasadi via online methods because of the coronavirus pandemic but the Federation hopes to begin residential training at the Torrington Sports Complex by June 15, according to NFSL Secretary Champa Gunawardena.
The NFSL is hoping the Sri Lanka Netball Team could win a Gold Medal at the Asian Indoor Games.
Meanwhile, the NFSL has targeted participating in four international competitions (junior and senior) during the next two and half years.
Among them are the Asian Indoor Games (May 2021) Bangkok, World Junior Netball Championship (2021, Fiji), Asian Junior Netball Championship (2021, August) South Korea and Asian Senior Netball Championship (2022, September) in Colombo.
The Asian Netball Championship was scheduled to be held in May this year in South Korea but was postponed indefinitely because of the viral outbreak.
The NFSL is making a bid to host this event in 2022. Sri Lanka has previously hosted the Asian Championship twice in 2001 and 2012.
Sri Lanka have emerged Asian champions on five occasions in 1989, 1997, 2001, 2009 and 2018.
Since the inception of this championship in 1995, Sri Lanka have emerged runners-up on four occasions and finished in third position a couple of times.
“We are ready to host the Asian championship in 2022. We have made a request but a decision has still not been made because the pandemic.”
“We hope to make a formal request to Netball Asia with the consent of the Sports Ministry to host this event. Since we have successfully hosted the championship twice in the past, we are confident of getting our request approved,” said NFSL Secretary Gunawardena.
Over 10 countries from Asia are expected to participate in this championship and the cost of hosting it is expected to cost over Rs. 10 million.