Ready to raid for gold once again

The sport of kabaddi has largely remained in the shadows despite India being masters of the game.  The game has contributed gold after gold at the Asian Games but limelight had eluded its purveyors.

It is safe to say that won’t be the case when the men’s kabaddi team heads to Incheon, thanks to the Pro Kabaddi League which was staged in the country from July 26 to August 31.

While the interest around the game picked up late last year when news emerged that PKL would be held across various centres in India in the middle of 2014, nobody was quite sure about whether it would even take off.

But backed by celebrity investors who were genuinely interested and passionate about the game and promoted by individuals who were bloody-minded in their thinking to revive it, the sport enjoyed a second wind.

It is in this backdrop that the team will travel to Incheon to defend a title they have never lost.

Rakesh Kumar, who was a member of the squad in both 2006 and 2010, exuded confidence when asked if they can repeat the achievement.

“Yes, yes, yes,” he said. “We are all confident of winning the gold and we have been working very hard,” he said. “The likes of Japan and Pakistan are difficult opponents but our team is fully fit and we are very confident.”

The sport was first introduced at the Asian Games in Beijing in 1990. And India promptly won it. Something they have done repeatedly since – in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010.

While the sport has caught up in other parts of Asia – especially Iran – India not only hope but expect a gold in this event because such has been their proficiency. The men’s team have played 28 matches in all since 1990. They have won all of them.
Manjeet Chillar, a key component of the squad, also echoes Rakesh’s sentiment. “We have been practicing for quite sometime now and we think we can do well,” he says.
He picks out Iran and Pakistan as the countries that will challenge India.

It is not just the men that will be expected to win gold. Even the women’s team, who won it at the first time of asking in Guangzhou, will back themselves to corner glory. And if they do, the promoters of PKL, who have already talked about the feasibility of a women’s league, might just go about reinventing the wheel once again.

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