In the last two years, the Pro Kabaddi League, along with the sport itself, have grown at an exponential rate. The new season is all set to start next month and will be bigger than any other tournament of its kind in the country, with 12 teams from 11 states contesting over 130 matches.
The new campaign will not only be a great opportunity for the Indian players, both the existing superstars and the youngsters but also for the foreign players, who consider the tournament to be bigger than the World Cup and Asian Games. Season five will see players from Iran, South Korea, Bangladesh, Kenya, Japan, etc. spread across the franchises and in the Puneri Paltan camp, there is a defender from Japan who stands out among the rest.
Takamitsu Kono is not your regular kabaddi player. A third generation Buddhist monk, he balances his religious duties with the sport on a daily basis. He was part of the starting lineup of the Japanese side in last year’s World Cup and this time, he will be looking to make an impact for the side from Pune as well.
We at Sportskeeda caught up with him in an exclusive interview. Here are a few excerpts!
What is your routine like back home in Japan? How do you manage your duties and playing kabaddi at the same time?
I am studying Buddhism from Taisho University in Tokyo since the past 4 years. There, I am also a part of the rugby team and I enjoy staying in the rugby camp with the side.
As a priest, my daily job is to clean the temple and perform prayers in the morning. During the whole of the day, I work in the temple administration office. By evening, I go out to play kabaddi.
Does being a monk help you on the mat as well?
Being a monk has taught me to be kind and polite to everyone, on the mat and off the mat too. Although kabaddi is a contact sport, I showcase a controlled aggression which I think has a close relation with me being a monk. But to be honest, on the mat I am a kabaddi player and off the mat, I am a monk.
Also, the meditation I do augments my mental strength and concentration. It helps me remain focused and also helps me stay calm and collected during intense situations which in turn, helps me improve my game and style of play.
How did you start playing the sport?
I have grown up watching people play kabaddi. I developed a passion for the game during my childhood itself as on the outset it looks very interesting. I used to play rugby earlier and I guess that also helped create interest to play another contact sport.
I started playing it at the University. Before being a part of the team, I used to practice on a high school’s ground and play and learn the sport with them since back then, we did not have anybody to coach us. I also remember coming for the first time to Kolkata to train with the West Bengal Police kabaddi team.
How was your experience representing your nation at the World Cup in 2016?
The World Cup was a larger than life experience, where I also was the vice-captain of my team. I got a chance to interact with players from many other countries and learn from them about the intricacies of kabaddi and their tactics.
Our team performed well and I was happy that they were extremely disciplined and showcases good team spirit.
And how has the experience of joining the Pune team been so far?
The Pune team is very welcoming and I am learning a lot more about improving my game as I train with them every day. All the players are so excited and full of energy. I feel I am a part of a perfectly-balanced team and that we have high chances of winning the trophy this season.Published 27 Jun 2017, 16:00 IST