Kenyan player learnt Kabaddi through YouTube

Kenyan player learnt Kabaddi through YouTube

Just a year ago, not many would have wagered their money to say that more foreigners would compete in the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL). Also, as the game is mainly a rural sport with limited fan following in certain urban pockets, a few would have thought that the PKL would grab headlines and attract good crowds at the matches.

Besides, the glamour quotient attached with the PKL, live telecast of the matches played in different parts of the country has helped in catching more eyeballs. Though not on the scale of cricket, football and badminton, some big names have bought the teams, helping the game to rise in popularity chart.

Kabaddi, though an Asian Games event, has not caught the imagination of the people. Even in Asia not many countries take kabaddi seriously. Now, some foreigners seem to be taking keen interest in the game, mainly due to the PKL.

But what is all the more surprising is players like Simon Kibura from Kenya making it to the PKL. Hold your breath. He is almost a self-taught player. He learnt the game on You Tube and is competing in this edition.

As many as 18 foreigners are representing eight teams in the second edition of the game.

Simon Kibura is from Kenya, which is known to produce long-distance runners and kabaddi is almost alien to that country. In fact, “kabaddi in Kenyan language means a ‘big fat person’”. He was picked up by the Puneri Paltan and is the first African to represent in the league. Kibura was introduced to kabaddi by his friend and the 25-year-old took to YouTube to learn the game.  “It was funny watching the game where many people try to grab a guy,” chuckles Kibura.

Intrigued by the nature of the game, Kibura watched it on YouTube regularly. As he was impressed, Kibura made YouTube his learning platform. “I picked up rectangular kabaddi, what is played in India and then went on to learn beach kabaddi,” he recollects.

The formation of the Kenya Kabaddi Federation in 2013 increased Kibura’s desire to play the game at the international level and it was time he got selected in the national side. The federation found Kibura to be one of the young sensations capable of doing well for their country and named him in the squad for the Kabaddi World Cup, which was held in India (Punjab) from December 7 to 20 last year.

A national colour was soon followed by a call from the Puneri Paltan and the Kenyan, defending his innovative method of learning, now vows to bring in more players from his hometown Nairobi.

 “It is indeed not a difficult task to pick up a sport from the internet. After the inaugural season of the PKL, I downloaded many videos of the league and called many kabaddi enthusiasts from my city to watch them. I realised the huge following for the game in countries such as India, Iran and Pakistan, by visiting Facebook pages created by fans and federations,” he says.

His aim is to emerge as the best kabaddi player in the world. He feels more youngsters would follow in his footsteps. “There is a talented youngster named David Mosayambi, a son of a farmer who, I am sure, will be a star for Kenya in future,” says Kibura.

If Kibura helped himself with the power of social media, Michal Spiczko of Poland fell back on the old and traditional art of extensive research to switch from American football to kabaddi. Representing Bengaluru Bulls this year, the Pole was picked by the Bengaluru franchise for Rs 1.5 lakh.

Speaking about his journey, the former Warsaw Eagles player thanks his team manager for telling him about kabaddi. “The president of the European Kabaddi Association was looking for new guys to play the sport. He requested my team manager to find players and that is how I came to know about the game. I did a thorough research about the game, post which I realised it is a combination of three to four sports,” he says. 

Interested to pursue the game, the Pole began training and claims that it was not very difficult switching. “Both American football and kabaddi are physical in nature and require good footwork. So it was not tough to start playing kabaddi.”

Spiczko now is a part of a 10-man Poland national kabaddi team and his interesting journey tasted more success when the national side beat five English clubs in their first competitive outing recently.

Though having received limited opportunities to play in the PKL this season, the Pole, who is also the first European player to play in the league, said that he had a great learning experience in India and promises to make a huge impact with his game next season.

Apart from these two players, Jang Kun Lee of South Korea also forms an interesting picture of an emerging talent passionate about kabaddi. Lee, with his aggressive style of play, has become a crowd favourite in India.

Playing for Bengal Warriors, Lee calls himself a student of the game and believes in building on his strengths than focussing on the techniques of the game. “In our country, a lot of prominence is given for building on our strengths and training is given based on different weight categories,” says the star raider for the Bengal unit.

Lee, who is a live wire when he is raiding, is an inspiration to many youngsters who are waiting to make their way into the national setup.

The PKL has served as a platform for many such passionate players to realise their dreams. “The tournament is a big hit in India. Wherever we go, we get great attention and people are very serious about it. We feel important and I would love to keep playing,” says an elated Kibura.

The foreign players have shown that there is no one way of learning a sport. Innovative and quirky methods are a huge hit as far as passionate individuals are concerned. With kabaddi making its presence in unchartered territories thanks to the league, the upcoming editions of PKL look set to unearth new talent who will definitely have interesting stories to tell. 

The curtains will come down on the over month-long second season of PKL on Sunday.


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