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Pakistan Men gain Silver Medal after controversial Final with India

On Saturday 20th December 2014, for the third  Kabaddi World Cup running, arch rivals Pakistan faced India again. This took place at the Guru Gobind Singh Stadium, Badal, Sri Muktsar Sahib, Punjab. Any game between these two countries is usually a classic, with passionate support from both sides. This encounter certainly proved to a very tense affair.

Our cricket heroes, Shahid Afridi, Misbah- ul Haq, Umar Gul are household names for all Pakistanis, but spare a thought for the Kabaddi greats, ‘raiders’ Captain Shafiq Ahmad Chishti, Akmal Shazad Dogar, Irfan Mana and ‘stoppers’ Musharraf Javed Janjua, Ali Shan.

This tournament’s opening ceremony was in Jalandhar, Punjab, India on 7th December. Matches were played in venues throughout Indian Punjab. The international mens teams included Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, India, Pakistan, Iran, Spain, Sweden and USA. The tournament has been broadcast across Asia, Australia, USA, Canada and UK.

India topped Pool A, undefeated, Pakistan topped Pool B undefeated. In the Semi Finals Pakistan beat Iran, India beat England. Setting up this riveting final. The womens tournament also took place, with Pakistan gaining a Bronze medal after defeating Denmark. Other female teams participating  included Azerbaijan, Denmark, England, Mexico, New Zealand and USA.

For those new to the sport of Kabaddi, it is an ancient contact sport, very popular in Punjab. The game is simple to arrange, no equipment required, just a flat ground required. It even reached international status in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. There are 2 teams, 7 members each on opposite halves of the ground. The game is played in 10 minutes quarters, with short breaks in between. It is a mix of Rugby (with the ball) and tag wrestling. The ‘raider’ of one team, takes a deep breath runs into the other half, touches an opponent and runs back to his half, without breathing to score a point. He chants ‘kabaddi, kabaddi’ as he exhales.

He is ‘out’ if he inhales before returning to his side or comes back without touching an opponent or the 30 second time limit is elapsed. The tagged defender or ‘stopper’ tries to tackle or wrestle the raider so he cannot return back to his team. Defenders are not allowed to cross the centre line, the raiders have to stay within the outer boundaries. After watching a few games the basic rules can be understood. Once you get hooked the games are addictive. The team with the most points at the end wins.

The over the years kabaddi has been played to keep people agile and fit. Both offensive and defensive skills are required for success. Speed, strength, tackling and the ability to find a quick escape route are useful attributes.

The previous Kabaddi World Cups in 2004, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 have all been won by India. Previously Pakistan have lost in the final 3 times to India. This year is the 3rd time in a row Pakistan faced India. India dominate the womens tournament also, with World Cup wins in 2012, 2013 and in this year’s event.

The mens final was as expected a tense, tough encounter. Pakistan had the upper hand for 3 quarters leading  31 -27, however in the final stages of the match were defeated 45- 43 by India. There was controversy at the end as Pakistani captain disputed the umpire’s time keeping and some other decisions. He claimed there was an unfair advantage played by the hosts.

Any sport that can bring people of the world together peacefully is an extremely positive venture. After this 2 week international tournament, the true winner will be the great sport of Punjabi Kabaddi.  Congratulations to the Pakistani teams for their successes. I am sorry the final ended in a negative way, as the rest of tournament was played in an extremely sporting fashion.

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