Argentina learning to embrace kabaddi and 'how it's played 'without a ball?'
Dubai, Jun 22 (PTI) 'Where's the ball?' -- it's a common question faced by the promoters of kabaddi in Argentina which is slowly embracing the sport.
The country of Maradona and Messi got a taste of kabaddi in late 1990s when Ricardo Acuna, who is now the president of the Argentina Kabaddi Federation, brought it the Latin American country after learning the sport while in Quebec in Canada which has a lot of Indian influence.
Having debuted in the 2016 World Cup in Ahmedabad, Argentina will make their only second International appearance when they compete against the likes of heavyweights India, Iran, Korea, Pakistan and Kenya in the six-nation Kabaddi Masters Dubai.
The game now has emerged as an "alternative sport" in Argentina and they are looking for sponsors as country's top raider Federico Gramajo says it's a beautiful game that requires a lot of skill, technique, agility much like rugby.
"But it is played without a ball... Countless times we face this questions from the people of Argentina. The YouTube has come in handy to explain nowadays," the 30-year-old Gramajo told PTI.
Country's experienced defender Jorge Berraja, who featured in the 2016 World Cup, said Argentina is a big country and they are trying their best to take the sport to places.
"Our participation in the World Cup has brought the sport to notice as it was broadcast on television and now a couple of more channels also show Pro Kabaddi."
They now have a six-team league in Argentina which is played in May.
"But it's only played over five days. There's no sponsors, no money to take the game forward. The game is really good. It not only demands teamwork but a great deal of power," Berraja said.
"But with no money, it's hard to bring in players. The situation is similar to India where everyone prefers cricket, games like rugby has little takers. It will take sometime but the sport is growing," 23-year-old defender Camera Javier said.
Like any other kids, Javier grew up playing football but later switched to kabaddi and now has a YouTube channel on his own demonstrating his skills about the game.
Argentina are clubbed with 2016 World Cup finalists Iran and Korea in group B. They will begin their campaign against Iran tomorrow.
"We will be no pushovers. Iran have come with a second string side and we see a chance there," team Argentina echoed.
The AKF president Acuna said with Argentina being a predominantly football nation, it has been our endeavor to introduce multiple sports as a way to present a whole new perspective on sports to the country.
"The introduction of kabaddi to Argentina has redefined sports participation, delving into our diverse talent pool and bringing forth young talented individuals to make a mark in the world of kabaddi.
"Kabaddi Masters Dubai will surely be a moment of reckoning for Argentina's kabaddi talent and we look forward to taking this competition head on," he signed off