"India is one of the main reasons Kabaddi is flourishing in Kenya," says Patrick Nzau Muvai
As one steps foot into the picturesque city of Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya that is placed between Kampala and Mombasa will undoubtedly serve as a great host with the fast, yet gentle paced rhythm of the city the perfect addition to a suitable weather condition.
While basking in the glory of Nairobi, it would not be a surprise to run into some jubilant youngsters, running about to catch a glimpse of their favourite Kabaddi stars, who have taken to the game in a massive way with a well-established unit called the 'Moi International Sports Centre' in a small town called Kasarani where they meet for honing their skills prior to a major tournament. Brought to the masses in 2014, Kabaddi has given the Kenyans a new lease of life, an extra supplement to a myriad variety of cultures.
Given that Kenya made its international debut in the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup, the country is yet to fully understand the game as told to Sportskeeda by one of Kenya's Kabaddi sons, Patrick Nzau Muvai who will be representing his home nation in the upcoming 2018 Kabaddi Masters slated to commence from the 22nd of June at the Al Wasl Sports Club in Dubai.
Only the third Kenyan to be picked by a Pro Kabaddi League side when his services were procured by the Haryana Steelers in the recent auctions, Patrick dealt in length about his Kabaddi journey, the important aspects of being a Kabaddi player and India's influence in Kabaddi's growth in Kenya. Here is the interview in full.
SK: How is the preparation going on for the Kabaddi masters?
Muvai: The preparation is going on really well. Since we were given an invite to the tournament beforehand and we knew we were going to take part, we have practiced very well. Everything is going on very well and we hope to put on a good performance.
Since we were given a lot of support from India after the 2016 World Cup, India has in a way helped in the rise of Kabaddi in Kenya in a very big way.
SK: How has the team gelled along and come together to make a mark in the Masters?
Muvai: When we were first heading for the World Cup, we were not a team which was based on technique since we did not know the game. It was all about showcasing our power and collecting points.
However, this time around, we have a lot of specializations in the team and we have learned the technique so we are well prepared as a team. One of the main contributors to our team is David Mosambayi, who has played two seasons in the Pro Kabaddi League and has brought his experience back home to teach all of us.
SK: Tell us about your Kabaddi journey. Who was your inspiration to take up the game?
Muvai: Personally, I am a person who loves playing all sorts of games. When I was working some years back, I used to observe a certain person coming to the working place around 8 AM every day and he was profusely sweating.
So I asked him which game he trained for and he said it was 'Kabaddi'. I started wondering what the game was all about and asked him to take me to the training ground.
When I went there I saw that it was a very difficult game to play. One day he came to me and asked me to try my hand at Pro Kabaddi since they were planning to start a team.
After the trials, I fell in love with the game and although I went there in basketball shorts and shoes, I started understanding the game more and trained harder with each passing day. I also watched many videos of players from the Indian team and caught the game.
SK: How has the Kabaddi fever caught up in Kenya?
Muvai: It has caught up quite a lot with many children wanting to learn and play the game. However, since we are short on the number of coaches, we take up the responsibility of coaching and take the children under our wings.
We urge them to watch a lot of videos and learn the techniques which we cannot teach them. In a couple years, Kabaddi will probably be the top game in Kenya.
Also, since all of the players in the national team reside in Nairobi, it makes it easier to meet up, practice and people who come to watch us are also interested to learn the game.
SK: What was your first reaction on being picked by the Haryana Steelers for the Pro Kabaddi League?
Muvai: Actually, I was not watching the auctions, I was sleeping! My coach was the first person who told me that I was picked by the Haryana Steelers.
I immediately rang up my captain David and asked him when the auctions were to which he said it was on that day and I was selected by the Steelers. I could not believe my luck and I had to Google my name to confirm that I was picked by the Steelers in the auctions.
SK: What is the most important skill set according to you, that makes a Kabaddi player one of the best?
Muvai: If we consider the case of raiding, we need to understand what the situation is. It is important to see how the players are standing and read their body language and then pick a target.
A raider cannot just go in and rush into things but instead much keep a target in mind and make the most of the opponents' weakness.
SK: Being an all-rounder, which is your stronger suit? Raiding or defending?
Muvai: I like raiding more than defending because I like to control the game with my raiding but I like to contribute to the defense as well.
I generally play in the right corner or the right cover position and take my opportunity to tackle when it presents itself.
SK: How has Kabaddi influenced your lifestyle? Have you gained a lot of popularity over time?
Muvai: Yes, of course, Kabaddi has changed my life to a very big extent. Although it is unfortunate that the Kenyan government does not recognize Kabaddi, we athletes spend our own money and it gives us some new experiences.
Also, when I was picked by the Haryana Steelers, my friends were very impressed and suddenly they wanted to know what the game was about and how they could come to my level.
Everything is talking about my skill and about the game and off-late, people tell me that I am now entering into a big stage and they are scared that they will lose their friendship! (Laughs)
SK: Do you have any role model in the sport?
Muvai: I do not have just the one player but I try to copy the styles of many players who play in the Pro Kabaddi League. I love the way certain guys such as Rahul Chaudhari, Rohit Kumar, Nilesh Salunke, Sachin Tanwar and Monu Goyat.
However, I am a massive fan of Pardeep Narwal and I would love to have a conversation with him sometime. Probably I should learn a little Hindi to talk to him!
SK: How much of an influence has captain David Mosambayi had on your playing style?
Muvai: David is an amazing player and is one of the best in the country. He has learned a lot of techniques from India and he has come back to teach me and the rest of the team.
So I can call him my 'Kabaddi Teacher'. He taught me how to stretch, how to raid, how to pick the bonus points and being my captain, he is taking me a very long way.
SK: How excited are you to go against some of the biggest names in Kabaddi during the Masters?
Muvai: During the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup, we (Kenya team) had a chance to meet them and we also played a friendly match against them.
It was a huge opportunity for us since we had only watched them on YouTube or TV earlier and in the World Cup, we had a chance to play against them.
Now during the Masters, we will have another opportunity to play against them with an exciting team this time and we hope to have a good time.
SK: Make your team of seven players, who you would love to play with and why?
Muvai: Mohit Chhillar and Fazel Athrachali would occupy the right and left corner in my team.
For the raiders, I would pick Pardeep Narwal, Ajay Thakur, Rahul Chaudhari and Monu Goyat and I can probably play the all-rounder's role in the team.
Although this team does not have a lot of defensive prowess, I feel that it will be a team with which we can control the game since other than Pardeep Narwal, everyone else is capable of contributing to the defense as well.
Patrick's Top 7: Patrick Nzau Muvai (c), Pardeep Narwal, Rahul Chaudhari, Monu Goyat, Ajay Thakur, Mohit Chhillar, Fazel Athrachali.
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