Kabaddi World Cup kicks off in In­dia, sans Pak­istan

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

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.

A for­mi­da­ble Iran team clashes with new­com­ers the United States in to­mor­row’s open­ing round of the com­pe­ti­tion that also in­cludes 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 nu­clear-armed 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.

Pak­istan cap­tain Nasir Ali said his play­ers had been favourites to clinch the cup af­ter de­feat­ing In­dia at the six­na­tion 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.

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.

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.

At­tack­ers chant “kabaddi, kabaddi” to prove they are not in­hal­ing.

The game is played in around 35 coun­tries, but it is dom­i­nated by In­dia, where it orig­i­nated.

Iran, who lost to In­dia in the pre­vi­ous two world cup fi­nals in 2007 and 2004, have a rel­a­tively easy first match against first-timers USA.

An open­ing-day dou­ble header will also see In­dia lock horns with South Korea. A round-robin tour­na­ment, the top two sides from the pools will qual­ify for the semis, with the fi­nal on Oc­to­ber 22. –

Photo: Face­book/ProKabaddi

In­dia’s pro­fes­sional kabaddi league has taken the an­cient sport to a new level of pop­u­lar­ity with tele­vised matches and ly­cra uni­forms.

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