Kenya’s Simon Maina Kibura has been representing his country in Star Sports Pro Kabaddi from last season with his team Puneri Paltan. The 25-year-old raider played 4 matches last season and had a very good raid success rate of 45%.
Watching him play, nobody can realise he started playing the sport just a couple of years ago. He spoke to SportsKeeda on the day of their second match against U Mumba and expressed his passion and love of kabaddi.
Here are the excerpts:
Q. Kenya started playing kabaddi just 3 years before; How you get into this sport, which is completely unknown to you a couple of years before?
I was introduced to the game 2 years back in August by my friend who practices Taekwondo, in Nairobi. They were only handful of people who were aware about the game. The format that I practiced was the circle court. It was here in India when I saw the rectangular court.
I used YouTube and learnt the sport the skills and how to take points. I also learnt the rules from there. The passion and love for the sport for grew day by day. I don’t believe in wasting any time – I looked up videos of the sport on YouTube, read up all the rules that needed to get the game started. Today, Kenya has a 20-member team and a Kenya Kabaddi Association.
Q. Why did you chose kabaddi and not any other sport?
I always loved rugby, wrestling – you see tough masculine games. That’s the real sport one can proud of. For me it was pretty difficult initially. But it was love at first sight kinds for me. I would pronounce it as `Kadibba`, `Kabadda`. It took me some time to understand the game. This game has it all. You have to use your brain hold your breath, physical strength alertness and right strategy.
Q. How did you start practicing kabaddi in Kenya?
I used to practice Kabaddi on a beach with my friends.
Q. In Kenya, you played kabaddi on bare land and here you are playing on a mat. What difference did you find in both?
Yes, they are different, but the mat one in Star Sports Pro Kabaddi is the one I like. This one is more comfortable.
Q. Is kabaddi gaining popularity in Kenya?
My family and friends would watch every match of Pune over the internet. They are very happy for me. People have started talking about kabaddi and know me now. They are very proud that someone from Africa is representing their country in a league in India.
I am sure that kabaddi in Kenya has taken the small steps, but is going in the right direction. My younger brother is also showing interest and liking towards the sport. He will surely help in popularising the sport in whatever way he could.
Q. Can you tell us that how you got selected in Star Sports Pro Kabaddi? What are the qualities which helped you to get selected?
I am very young, tall and strong. I think these are the qualities they have seen in me, and I also play a very aggressive game.
Q. Is it somehow difficult for you to come to India and play a month-long tournament?
No, it is not difficult. I am enjoying myself and the sport here in India.
Q. You were the only player from Kenya last season, now you have one more in your team and the number of foreign players also increased. What you want to say about them?
It is very good for the sport. My franchise Puneri Paltan took one more player from my country, David Mosambay, in the team this season. They are providing us very good facilities.
Q. You are from Kenya and here all the players speak in Hindi, Did you still feel some discomfort in communicating with the players?
This is not a problem now. In my team Puneri Paltan our coach Ashok Shinde speaks very good English and players also know English. I can also understand some Hindi now, but I can’t speak. In the first season, my team players made me understand Hindi words and their meanings. So, now it’s comfortable.
Q. You have seen already seen all the teams this year. Do you find any difference in this year?
Yes, it becomes more competitive and aggressive this year.
Q. Last year, your team Puneri Paltan was at last spot in the table. You lost your debut match of this season also against Telugu Titans last night. What are the plans to bounce back?
Yes, we will show good performance again. Yesterday, we played good in the first half, but later in the second half there was something went wrong. Now our coach and players prepared a new strategy for this and we are confident and well prepared. We will win this time.
Q. As a raider you observed the teams this season. Which team or the players you think is more dangerous to play against?
I think that Yogesh Hudda and Shabeer Bapu are the players who are very dangerous to play against.