The decade of (2010-2019) was glorious for the sport of Kabaddi, where the soil-based ancient game that was limited in the history books emerged as India's second-most adored sport today. Many nations have adopted the game with sheer enthusiasm, as the interest of watching Kabaddi among fans has peached year after year.
The Pro Kabaddi League has also helped a lot of talented athletes to showcase their skills and make a name for themselves. A lot of Kabaddi players who didn't get any recognition at the start of the decade have received immense adoration and respect from the sports lovers today.
Exponential growth in the popularity of Kabaddi has given a clear sight of the positives that could happen in the years to come in the game. The likes of Iran, South Korea, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka have emerged as competition to India's traditional stronghold and could be much more challenging in the upcoming international events.
On such note, let's take a look at three things that should happen in Kabaddi in the next decade (2020-2029).
#3 The resurgence of women's Kabaddi
Although the women have emerged steadily into the sport of Kabaddi, it hasn't received a lot of attention from the fans in comparison to the men's Kabaddi. Over the years, the female viewership in the Pro Kabaddi League has risen subsequentially. However, they have lacked a motivation to take up the sport and adapt it with enthusiasm.
The perception of people regarding the women to play the sport is yet to witness an improvement. The Women's Kabaddi Challenge depicted a blueprint of what could get seen in the years to come featuring the best women's players across the nation. However, it couldn't get continuity on long terms and stopped after its inaugural season itself.
The Indian women's Kabaddi team, which has won several gold medals in Asian Games and South Asian Games, found their only competition when they settled with a silver in the 2018 Asian Games versus Iran. The likes of Chinese Taipei, Nepal, and Thailand have emerged competitively in the sport with little experience, but haven't gained enough training and exposure yet.
Similar to the men's Kabaddi, the women have also shown their competency in the sport time and again. Perhaps the launch of a women's franchise-based league as a notable TV product could help a lot of young girls to take up the sport and make a career out of playing Kabaddi in the days to come.
#2 More international Kabaddi matches/series
Kabaddi has gained popularity among international players and also seen a notable increase in the viewership among other countries as well. The concept of a franchise-based Kabaddi tournament like PKL has inspired a lot of nations to conduct their leagues with broadcasters and required resources to promote talents from the grassroots level.
The Kabaddi Masters tournament held in Dubai in 2018 was an inaugural step of hosting a 6-nation Kabaddi series outside of India. It was the first time when international Kabaddi got organized in the UAE comprising of India, South Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Argentina, and Kenya. Broadcasted by Star Sports, the league was a success where pre-favorites India defeated Iran 44-26 to win the inaugural edition.
Such leagues help a lot of countries revive the sport of Kabaddi within their territory. Just like Cricket, where one nation tours the other to play a series, the same concept in Kabaddi could help the younger generation to show interest in the sport. It would also help the less-experienced nations to learn and gain more experience to uplift healthy competition among all nations.
#1 Kabaddi in the Olympics
The International Kabaddi Federation (IKF), stated to have 31 national associations across the world, is the governing body of Kabaddi founded in 2004. Being a quick-paced sport with a span of just 40 minutes, Kabaddi has all the criteria to feature in the Olympics in the future.
After a sport gets recognized in the International Olympic Committee (IOC), at least 75 countries and four continents (men's) and 40 nations with three continents (women's) should take up the game for it to feature in the Olympics. With the growth of Kabaddi across many countries, this seems to be a positive sign considering how Kabaddi has a rich history behind it.
The current sports minister of India, Kiren Rijiju, while speaking with KBD Live show in the recently concluded seventh season of PKL, also depicted that the government envisions Kabaddi to be a part of the Olympics soon.
We will definitely push hard for Kabaddi to be part of the next Olympics as we are a billion plus powerful nation and so for this to become possible, we will have to put all our efforts together, but I am very confident about it.
Perhaps a professional Kabaddi federation where all nations invest their sources in forming teams in their own countries would be required to convert the dream into reality. If proper efforts take place with a well-planned strategy, the day won't be far when Kabaddi enters the biggest sporting event in the world - the Olympics.