Pak­istan barred from Kabaddi World Cup

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

The 12-na­tion Kabaddi World Cup kicks off this week in In­dia, with a row over a de­ci­sion to bar arch-ri­vals Pak­istan from com­pet­ing threat­en­ing to over­shadow the tag-wrestling sport’s show­case event.

For­mi­da­ble Iran clash with new­com­ers the United States in Fri­day’s open­ing round of the com­pe­ti­tion that also in­cludes top sides from Aus­tralia, South Korea, Eng­land, Poland, Kenya and Ar­gentina. With the World Cup last staged nine years ago, teams are rel­ish­ing the chance to com­pete in the two-week event be­ing held in In­dia’s west­ern city of Ahmed­abad.

But the tra­di­tional South Asian sport that mixes tag and wrestling and is grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity has been hit with con­tro­versy over a de­ci­sion to ex­clude highly fan­cied Pak­istan.

In­ter­na­tional Kabaddi Fed­er­a­tion (IKF) chief De­o­raj Chaturvedi, who is from In­dia, said Pak­istan has been de­nied en­try be­cause of a spike in ten­sions be­tween the two nu­cle­ar­armed na­tions.

“This is not the right time to en­gage with Pak­istan,” Chaturvedi told AFP. “Pak­istan is a valu­able mem­ber of the IKF but look­ing at the cur­rent sce­nario and in the best in­ter­est of both the na­tions, we de­cided that Pak­istan must be re­frained from the cham­pi­onship.”

Pak­istan ac­cused the IKF of un­fairly tar­get­ing the coun­try, say­ing both ri­val na­tions should have been ex­cluded if there were se­cu­rity con­cerns. “We have called a meet­ing to dis­cuss this is­sue but let me tell you that a Kabaddi World Cup is no world cup with­out Pak­istan,” said Pak­istan kabaddi fed­er­a­tion sec­re­tary Rana Muham­mad Sar­war.

“This is just like a football world cup with­out Brazil,” Sar­war told AFP. Pak­istan cap­tain Nasir Ali said his play­ers had been favourites to clinch the cup af­ter de­feat­ing In­dia at the six-na­tion Kabaddi Cup held in Pak­istan in May and last month’s Asian Beach Games in Viet­nam.

“We were hop­ing to win the world cup in In­dia by beat­ing In­dia,” Ali told AFP, adding that fans were be­ing de­nied matches be­tween the top two sides. Hos­til­i­ties be­tween the na­tions have flared af­ter In­dia said last week it con­ducted mil­i­tary strikes in­side Pak­istan against mil­i­tants, spark­ing fury from Is­lam­abad.

The strikes came af­ter gunmen staged the dead­li­est at­tack on an In­dian army base in more than a decade, which an en­raged New Delhi blamed on Pak­istani-based mil­i­tants.

NEW LEASE OF LIFE

The World Cup comes as the an­cient game, played in sandy parks across In­dia for gen­er­a­tions and once tagged with a dowdy im­age, is en­joy­ing a new lease of life. The Pro Kabaddi League, launched in In­dia in 2014 with live tele­vi­sion cov­er­age, cor­po­rate spon­sors and brightly coloured lyrca strips, has proved hugely pop­u­lar and drawn play­ers from Iran and South Korea.

Iran’s skip­per Meraj Sheykh, who has played in the league’s last three edi­tions, said his side had grown stronger by play­ing in In­dia and other in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ments. “We have more young play­ers play­ing for us now and they have the ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing in In­dia,” Sheykh told the Times of In­dia news­pa­per.

Kabaddi re­quires yoga-like breath­ing skills as two seven-mem­ber teams send a raider into their en­emy’s half of the court to tag an op­po­nent be­fore re­turn­ing-in just one breath. —AFP

WAH: This file pho­to­graph taken on May 6, 2016, shows an In­dian kabaddi player (L) as he at­tempts to tag a Pak­istani op­po­nent dur­ing their fi­nal match of the 3rd Asian Kabaddi Cir­cle Style Cham­pi­onship 2016 in Wah some 45 kilo­me­ters from Is­lam­abad. The 12-na­tion Kabaddi World Cup kicks off this week in In­dia, with a row over a de­ci­sion to bar arch-ri­vals Pak­istan from com­pet­ing threat­en­ing to over­shadow the tag-wrestling sport’s show­case event. — AFP

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