Ajay Thakur angered by poor financial rewards given to Indian kabaddi team after World Cup win
Ajay Thakur single-handedly registered as many as 64 points for India during a successful World Cup campaign for the national team. A Super 10 in the final against Iran ensured a great comeback to lift the trophy, after they were trailing at half-time. However, the star raider is unhappy about the prize money and the recognition that were given to the Indian national team players post their victory.
Speaking exclusively to Sportskeeda, the 30-year-old expressed mixed emotions about the win. He said, “Firstly, never in my wildest dreams could I think of even lifting the World Cup trophy, and the sport becoming so popular in India. It was an amazing feeling to represent the country in front of a packed crowd, and the stage was perfect. However, it was quite surprising that none of our team members were given any cash prizes by state governments and other organisations.
"The entire team was given Rs. 10 lakh by the Sports Ministry, and that is it. If you divide it yourself, you will realise the amount is nominal. I am not saying that we should be showered with gifts. But sporting achievements regardless of the sport should be celebrated.”
He added, “I’m jubilant that we managed to win the trophy and even happier that the entire country lauded us. But when you see other athletes, such as Olympians and everyone being felicitated, but us getting ignored, it’s a bit demotivating. I will focus mostly on the upcoming Pro Kabaddi League season now. Will take a short three-week break, before starting training again.”
Ajay further added that the national camps are held with natural mats and not artificial ones. He said, “Our regular national camps throughout the year are played on normal ground and not on artificial turf. So even if we are not given any prize money or felicitation, turfs being provided around the year would be an excellent addition. The prize money would also help me settle down, as I’m getting married next year.
"But honestly speaking, I didn’t start playing this sport for money, so I will continue to do what I’m doing. When I started the game wasn’t that big; now that it is, we should aim to improve the infrastructure.”
India’s next major tournament is the Asian Games in 2018, and Ajay is quite confident about other countries soon catching up with India. He said, “I feel the PKL has helped other countries a lot. The likes of Iran and South Korea were good as it is, but certain countries have great individual players. For example, Kenya has some good individual players; Poland has a few. The more the sport grows, the better. I’m quite excited to see more countries joining the bandwagon.”
Last week, it was revealed that the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) was waiting on a response from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) about a potential inclusion of kabaddi in 2024. On that issue, Ajay said, “It would be a dream to represent India at the Olympics; that has always been something I have thought of. Hopefully, it can become a reality very soon.”