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Think kabaddi is just played and enjoyed on our soil?

Here are some facts about the game’s overseas growth that will leave you surprised Centuries after the warrior Abhimanyu who ‘raided’ opponents in their Chakravyuh and legend had it that kabaddi was developed as a sport to celebrate his bravery, the sport has grown far and wide in the modern urbanised world. While it’s true that India and its sub-continent are far more dominant in the sport than other countries and many players from the West have Indian roots too, but the ‘globalisation’ of kabaddi has been happening from a while. If you have been living in a bubble all this while assuming kabaddi is only a game your neighbourhood and leisurely boys in other parts of India play (we don’t blame you, Pro Kabaddi League wasn’t around until now!), we suggest you read these facts carefully and get boasting rights amidst your friends!

1. Kabaddi is big with the Japanese

Trust the Japanese to go after anything that leads to physical and mental strength, values they can utilise in making awesome technologies! The Japanese Kabaddi Association was formed way back in 1981 and has only contributed to the growth of the sport in Tokyo and Hiroshima. Japan has been an active, formidable participant in the Asian Games and has been sending a kabaddi delegation since the 11th landmark came about when Japan won bronze in Guanzhou 2010. Today, Japan is ranked 16th has popular players making it large on the international circuit. Masayuki Shimokawa and Takamitsu Kono, both part of Japan’s national team, are playing the Pro Kabaddi League! Best piece of trivia? Shimokawa is a fish monger and Kono is a priest!

2. Keanu Reeves played kabaddi too

We’re not saying the Canadian actor, known for his role in the Matrix series, is a keen player but it so happened that Reeves played ‘Buddha’ in a 1993 movie called Little Buddha. Many of you might know that kabaddi history bears testimony to the spiritual figure being a practitioner of the sport. So Reeves indeed played the game, of course in the film’s scenes where the childhood scenes of Buddha were depicted. Talking of Canada, it has hosted many world-level kabaddi competitions and ranks to be a tough team to beat.

3. An Indian teacher once brought kabaddi to an American classroom

It gives us much pleasure to dig out an anecdote which was even reported by the press not so long ago, i.e. in 2011. In Johnsburg, a mountainous town in the USA, an English literature teacher named Ajaykumar Nair arrived then on a six-month long teacher exchange programme. In his class, a mix of seniors and juniors, he one day asked them to remove their shoes, watch their instructor and try their hand (legs, rather!) at kabaddi. We hear that the students thoroughly enjoyed this experience and found it quite challenging. Guess they might have compared it to the American version of ‘football’ i.e. rugby! More power to such exchanges and teachers!

4. Kabaddi World Cups are fiercely competitive

India may have had a dominant reign in the kabaddi world cups held so far but that doesn't seem to deter participating teams every year. Take last year’s World Cup as a case study. Held in Punjab, it had 11 participating nations and matches were held at 13 venues. The tournament is as structured as any other World Cup you will see – with a group stage, knock-out stage, semi-finals and a third-place finish game too. The opening and closing ceremonies were telecast live, with international broadcast reaching Canada, USA and UK. In one of the most entertaining games, Argentina took on Spain with only eight players in the field, having a tough time keeping up. Spain won their first match of the Kabaddi World Cup by beating the Argentines 47-24. Some other names of the World Cup 2013 were Kenya, New Zealand, Denmark, Scotland, Sierra Leone! Of course, the final was between the two top teams – India and Pakistan, and the hosts went on to become champions... yet again!

5. The IKF lists 31 member countries

The International Kabaddi Federation, a global body overlooking the goings-on of the sport has 31 participating members – i.e. the nations which have officially made a team. Of these, while many member nations are not active, most others regularly send their teams to Asian and global events. Afghanistan National Kabaddi Association (ANKF) is among the more active ones, so is Germany, which has hosted kabaddi events in Duisburg and Frankfurt (a kabaddi ‘mela’ happened there last year to many cheers!). Some other nations where kabaddi is not only prevalent, but also practiced as a way of fitness: Krygystan, France, Bhutan and Norway!

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