Can Kabaddi ever be taken seriously?

Published: November 26, 2011
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The biggest highlight of the Kabaddi World Cup 2011 earlier this month was that 45 players failed the dope test in a single event. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi.

Dope, dope, dope.

The biggest highlight of the Kabaddi World Cup 2011 earlier this month was not that India won the tournament but the fact that 45 players failed the dope test in a single event.

The tournament featured 14 teams, but by the time it finished there were only 12 teams officially named at the closing ceremony. This is primarily because Australia was expelled as five of its players were tested positive for dope. The organisers, additionally, banned the US from the tournament before the semifinals as three of its players refused to take the dope test and three others had failed it earlier.

While many would consider it to be a bad sign for a regional sport like Kabaddi to have a major dope controversy in the middle of a big event, the very fact that 14 countries including the US, Canada, Italy, UK and Australia took part in it shows that the sport has the potential to make it big internationally. This would, however, only happen if a formal body took charge of its affairs.

However, having a World Kabaddi Federation is a gamble that will increase the corruption that is already surrounding the sport. This is because teams from Australia, US, Canada, Italy and UK were not even representing their countries officially and people are already questioning the legitimacy of the tournament.

The Kabaddi federations from these countries are not registered with their national sports authorities as most of the players in these teams are of Indian or Pakistani origin. In fact, jokingly the organizing secretary for the Kabaddi World Cup had told me:

“Madam ji, there are more Singhs in the UK team than on the Indian side.”

Meanwhile, most of the Indian and Pakistani Kabaddi players who fail to make it in the national teams end up moving to one of these countries and start playing for their unofficial federations. They, thus, become the biggest hurdle in the growth of the sport. A American player Kenny who participated in the tournament said:

“I got into this sport because it’s fun, but then there are too many Indians in the sport. I am here because it’s fun and I get to travel to India with these people. But I wouldn’t ever take kabaddi seriously because I won’t stand a chance against these players.”

Given these challenges, one would still want to take the dope controversy in a positive light; while most of the banned players belong to American or European teams, it proves that its not the unawareness about the drugs that caused the problem but it’s the question of whether or not kabaddi can be regulated internationally.

The answer remains no.

For now, the Asian kabaddi federation is run by Indians and Pakistanis and the players are outsourced to US, Canada, Italy, Australia, and UK by these same people.

natasha.raheel

Natasha Raheel

A Karachi-based sports reporter for The Express Tribune.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.