An Indian touch to Korean progress in kabaddi

When South Korea locked horns with favourites India in the first kabaddi semifinal of the 17th Asian Games, there was a familiar face in the hosts’ bench.

Determined to do well at their own Games, the Korean Kabaddi Federation roped in former India player L Srinivas Reddy, the move helping them win a surprise bronze medal.

“Firstly, I would want to congratulate the Korean team for winning the bronze despite starting to play the game seriously only in 2010,” said a delighted Reddy. “They are very passionate about kabaddi and most of the team members are college students or youth doing part time jobs.

“When I took over the team in July, my target was to try and win medal at the Asian Games. Bronze is a big thing considering our limited resources and exposure. I hope this first kabaddi medal for Koreans inspires them and more and more people take up the sport.”

Reddy, who represented the Indian team for five years with the highlight being a gold at the 2005 Asian Championships in Tehran, said he worked more on the technical side when handed the coaching job in July.

“Actually their fitness and speed is very good. Jangkun Lee is actually a kayaker while others come from sports like judo, taekwondo and boxing. I mostly focused on technique. Today we lost the match (against India) due to lack of experience.

“Initially, I showed them all the Pro Kabaddi League matches. They studied the skills and techniques of all the players. So I prepared them mentally. For any sportsperson, mental strength is the most important thing. If you have guts, you can achieve anything. The Koreans certainly have guts. Just two weeks before the event, I worked on strategies.”

Although Andhra Bank employee Reddy’s contract with the Korean team runs till December, he envisioned a bright future for them. “I hope the Korean government creates jobs for these players following this success. If kabaddi enters the Olympics, I’m confident not just Koreans but more and more countries will take it up. Here, the kabaddi players get $600 stipend from Korean government.

“As I said, they started taking the sport seriously only in 2010. Even now we have just 12 players to pick from in the women’s team while the men have a pool of 15. We lack in bench strength. Hope this bronze inspires more Koreans to take up the sport.”

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