Kabaddi World Cup 2016: If Korea can defeat India, there is no doubt that Iran can do the same, says Fazel Atrachali
Fazel Atrachali is a seasoned campaigner at the Pro Kabaddi League, having the rare prestige of winning the title twice with two different sides, U Mumba and Patna Pirates. But none of that will come into play now, as the defender along with the Iranian team will be gunning for glory at the world stage, the ultimate prize in the sport, the Kabaddi World Cup.
The Iranians known for their aggressive and agile style of play, are one of the major threats to the undisputed Indian challenge and it will none other than the likes of captain Meraj Sheykh, Fazel himself and others such as Hadi Oshtorak and Abol Fazl Maghsoudlou who will take the battle right across to the defending champions and give them a run for their money.
The Iranian team is running high on confidence post two big-margin victories against the USA and Thailand and Fazel echoed the same feeling, “The group matches seem to be relatively easy for us, so it is during the semi-finals that the real competition will begin for those will be tough encounters and we will have to be at the peak of our games to achieve victory in those fixtures for our aim is to win the World Cup this time around.”
This is in light of the Indian team led by Anup Kumar who will prove to be the biggest hurdle in the way of the Iranians, given the fact that they have won both the previous editions of the World Cup, have the best possible team replete with Pro Kabaddi stars and are playing on home ground. But, a sense of poise overcomes Fazel as he expects Iran to pull off another shock, “There is no doubt that the Indian team is very strong and have all the things going for them but South Korea was successful in causing a major upset on the inaugural day. So. if Korea can do it, well, the Iranian team is much better than the Koreans and with hard work nothing is impossible.”
Have an insight into Indian team’s strength and weaknesses
Fazel, with his ferocious ankle and thigh holds and strong dashes across the mat, finished as the Best Defender in the last season of Pro Kabaddi. The Iranian import has thus played with several players who will be representing India at the World Cup in the likes of Anup, Mohit Chhillar, Surender Nada, Pardeep Narwal and Cheralathan. Speaking on this he said, “All of them are great players, the key advantage of playing alongside them is the fact that I have an insight into their strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, I have tried and transferred the same sort of knowledge and experience to the other players in my national team, which will come in handy.”
Pro Kabaddi has revolutionised the sport not only in India and the sub-continent but all across the globe. Fazel is one foreign player who has benefitted from the inception of the league, “It merges forces from the world over into some well-combined teams, in the process helping different countries to progress when it come to kabaddi. Under expert and renowned coaches, and key players, we get the opportunity to understand the real concept of kabaddi and also learn quite a few new tactics and techniques that are taught by them to improve our style of play. In Iran as well, the sport has seen tremendous growth due to the League.”
Going back in time, we asked Fazel about how he started playing the very sport that is his profession today, “I was quite fascinated by kabaddi, I primarily had a liking towards it because of the excitement it brought with it. Hence, I started off by playing it locally at the age of eleven in my home town of Gorgan in Iran. As time progressed, my game improved and my talent was given recognition when I was called to represent the national team at seventeen. Seven national team players today hail from my town, which is a matter of pride for us.”
Since then he has played at the 2010 and 2014 Asian Games, even captaining the side in 2014 which won the silver medal. He had also represented Iran at the Asian Indoor Games in 2013.
Contact sports enthrall me
Delving into the lighter aspects of his personal life, we shot forth a flurry of rapid-fire questions to Fazel, which he answered with quite some ease. When it comes to his inspiration, a force that he looks upto, Fazel said, “Muhammad Ali is my idol, and when it comes to advice, with my eyes closed I go to my coach, who I feel is the best person to guide me.”
Football has a huge fan following back in Iran, with the national team even playing the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil but Fazel is one of the rare figures who does not follow the sport. “I do not like football, in fact I do not follow any of the ball sports. It is contact sports which enthrall me, boxing and wrestling are the most preferred ones, in fact when I’m not busy I even wrestle a bit with the other fellow wrestlers. Other than that, in my free time, I love to meet up my friends and go away camping in the forests or the mountains with them.”
In the world of kabaddi, he is always around his teammates, many of whom have now become his best friends due to the close bonds that they share. “Having played for U Mumba for the longest time, I can say that Shabeer Bapu is my best mate. But, I’m equally close to Anup, Rakesh and Vishal Mane as well, it is a unique relationship since we come from different countries but it’s a friendship that I cherish. On the other hand, in the Iranian team, Hadi Tajik is my closest buddy.”
Another interesting fact that Fazel discloses to us in the midst of our conversation is, “In my free time I also watch Bollywood movies and I am a huge fan of both Salman Khan and Amitabh Bachchan.” So we for sure know where his Dabang attitude stems from when he steps onto the kabaddi mat.
The focus and determination of this robust defender, however, remain on point, when he concludes the chat, “We do not have any special preparations for our match against India. All we need is a strong and composed mindset with hard work on the day which will ensure victory for us.” With his defensive abilities and the undying spark of level-headedness, Fazel will surely play a key role in the Iranian teams’ campaign at this World Cup.