Kabbadi is on the up Down Under
Kabbadi, a sport played for hundreds of years by Sikhs in the Punjab and other regions of northern India, continues to build a presence in other parts of the world.
Australian news web site The Age reports steady growth in Melbourne, the capital city of the state of Victoria, where Kuldip Bassi, the director of the Melbourne Kabaddi Academy, wants to open the sport to the wider community. He believes it would be a perfect fit for local sportsmen and sporting fans weened on the skill and ruggedness of Australian football and the two rugby codes.
The Age describes the game as “an unusual mixture of tag, wrestling, speed, power, agility and tactics”.
There are two styles of kabaddi, it says, but the one played in Australia involves two teams of up to 12 players, competing on a circular field. An attack involves one player at a time making a 30-second raid, 25 for each team in a 20-minute half, into the opposition’s half.
The “raider” is confronted by a chain of four opponents — the stoppers — who have their arms linked. He must ‘tag’ one stopper with the opposition players trying to prevent this and it then becomes a one-on-one tussle between the raider and the stopper concerned.
Under simplified rules, to earn a point the raider must make it back to his own half within the 30-second limit. (Under traditional rules he had to complete his task limited by the number of times he could chant “ “kabbadi” from one intake of breath).
Kabbadi played is from an early age in the Punjab, and in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and south Asia, and countries where Sikh communities have migrated, such as Canada, America and England.
It established itself in Australia in the 1990s and has become a real feature as Indian students have arrived in Australia in greater numbers. Melbourne now has four clubs who play occasional tournaments.
In India and Canada there are professional leagues with their own heroes, not all of whom are Sikhs.
Kuldip Bassi says in Melbourne it is attracting new fans who love to see the sturdily-built competitors hit the ground.
The history and different forms of the sport are described in great detail at the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) website at www.kabaddiikf.com
Kabbadi has been accepted into the Asian Games and there are hopes that it might one day become an Olympic sport. It is recognised by the Indian Olympic Association and the Olympic Council of Asia.
The IKF says that to gain a berth in the Olympics the sport requires to be popular all over the world and should have rules and regulations that conform to the Olympic motto concerning the “swiftest, highest and strongest”. It lists 20 leading countries where the sport is played.
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