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Posted at: Dec 22, 2014, 1:41 AM; last updated: Dec 22, 2014, 1:32 AM (IST)

Not so easy way forward for kabaddi

Points to ponder

  • At present, around 775 tournaments are being organised in Punjab. The lure of awards at these ungoverned tournaments can lead players towards unfair practices like doping.
  • Kabaddi at the Asian Games is national style. If the circle style is to become part of Asiad or CWG or Olympics, it has to compete in popularity with the national style.
  • The players feel that the government should do more than organising a World Cup every year. It should show interest at the grassroots level.
Not so easy way forward for kabaddi

The World Cup Kabaddi, which was held for the fifth consecutive year, has raised the profile of this indigenous sport. file Photo

Rachna Khaira

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, December 21

As the curtain came down on the 5th World Cup Kabaddi, the hugely popular sport is at a crossroads. The promotion of the sport and the huge money involved in it have pushed kabaddi to the forefront, but several perplexing questions remain as to how the sport could be taken to the next level — to the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games — when the event is not sanctioned and recognised by the various sports associations that govern sports in India and abroad.

The number of kabaddi players have increased manifold over the years. Surjan Chatha, president of North India Kabaddi Federation, after coming from England in 1988 had conducted a survey on the indigenous style game in Punjab. “During that time, there were only 5,800 boys playing the game whereas the number has risen to almost six lakh this year, with the maximum participation recorded in the last four years after the commencement of the World Cup,” said Chatha.

Clearly, World Cup Kabaddi has invigorated the sport in north India. At present, three federations conduct 275 tournaments across Punjab, and around 500 more tournaments are being organised by various villages at the Gram Panchayat level, with the support of NRIs. The flip side is that the lure of awards at these tournaments, which remain ungoverned, can lead players towards unfair practices, even the use of performance enhancing drugs.

The government is making efforts to get the ‘indigenous style’ recognised at the national level, but it also needs to check the ground reality in villages, where innocent youths are tempted into the use of steroids at the instigation of their ‘coaches’, in order to win matches and tournaments. Winning a tractor or even a motorcycle, which are routinely the prizes at kabaddi events, is a dream come true for an illiterate and unemployed youth.

“There is a dire need to bring such tournaments offering enormous prizes under the jurisdiction of the respective Deputy Commissioners so that there should be a check on the use of drugs in them,” said Gurdeep Singh Malhi, honorary secretary of Punjab Kabaddi Federation.

“The state government should also hold the village Panchayat responsible for any kind of drug trade in its area. In most of the places, the clubs have even kept a separate budget for the steroids to be used by players.”

He also informed that some clubs even give advance money to the players so that they could buy performance-enhancing steroids and recreational drugs, and this money is later deducted from the prize money. “Till the time village youths realise their mistake, they are already in the deadly net of drugs, and lose the prize money too,” said Malhi. He said that the use of drugs then increases, as the habitual users trap other young men to buy expensive recreational drugs.

The other significant issue relates to the recognition of the circle style kabaddi. The state government has successfully hosted five editions of the World Cup, but it still has not been able to get the game recognised at the national level.

Kabaddi is played in the Asian Games, but it’s the “international style”; it is played on a rectangular court. The circle style format, played on a circular pitch 22 metres in diameter, is mainly played in Indian and Pakistani Punjab, and among Punjabi expats across the world. It’s very difficult to envisage two different styles of kabaddi in multi-sport events like the Asian Games. If the circle style is to eventually become part of the Asian or Commonwealth or Olympic Games, it has to compete in popularity with the international style.

“We are ready to affiliate circle style kabaddi but only if the Punjab Government adheres to the rules and regulations of the tournament,” said Deoraj Chaturvedi, chief executive officer of International Kabaddi Federation, the apex governing body of kabaddi in the world.

“So far, there have been more violations than adherences in the tournaments organised by them.”

Discussing the violations, he hinted at the alleged use of steroids by the players, the ‘kabootarbaazi’ charges and even the standard of coaches and other staff involved in the tournament.

The players themselves feel that the government should do more than organising a World Cup every year, and should show interest at the grassroots level. “They should announce some benefits for the circle style players,” said an India player.

With nine national championships having been held in the recent past and even Asian Championships held twice in Iran and Pakistan, the future of circle style is definitely not bleak, but it has to overcome several challenges to gain acceptance and recognition at the national and international level.

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