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Throwback: When Indian women’s kabaddi team stood out for their magnanimity

India's heartfelt gesture on the mat wins hearts.

Indian Iran Kabaddi
Not everything in sports is about winning

The Anup Kumar-led Indian men’s kabaddi team surged to their third World Cup title last Saturday, prevailing over Iran in a much-fancied clash. The result goes on to establish further India’s superiority and dominance in the sport that was invented in the country ages ago.

From the Asian Games to the World Cup, there has never been any doubt regarding India’s unquestionable authority in this indigenous game. But despite the hegemony, there have been times when winning for India had taken a backseat and their incredible sportsmanship was what made them even bigger champions.

One such instance was during the tense India vs Iran gold-medal match in women’s kabaddi at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. 

India were the defending champions and were going for their second consecutive gold medal that would help them maintain a clean sheet at this continental games. On the other hand, Iran had gradually been imposing themselves and their fast improvement made them quite a challenging opposition.

The stakes were quite high, perhaps more so for India. But even in those nerve-wracking, thrilling moments, what the Indian team did would go on to become one of the biggest talking points that showed that there is more to life than just winning ruthlessly.

During that clash, one of the Iranian raiders, who was attired in full-sleeved clothes, accidentally had her ‘hijab’ displaced while a raid was on. The discomfort writ large on her face, her focus clearly wavered for a few seconds. The Iranian could have easily been trapped by the robust Indian defense then.

Instead, the Indians chose to help her cover her face and put the hijab back in place. 

It was that one gesture that spoke a million words and warmed countless hearts. In the race to finish first, we sometimes forget to show respect to the opponent and this was one of those acts that reminded us that humanity is above all. 

Indian skipper Tejaswini Bai, later admitted that it was natural for them to come to her rescue on seeing her desperation.

“We need to respect their religious sentiments. When the hijab fell from her head, we could see her desperation. So it was natural for us to help her.”

Kudos to the Indian women’s kabaddi team for being so unselfish! India did eventually emerge triumphant in that duel, getting the better of Iran 31-21. But on that day, it was this exemplary display that drew bigger headlines than winning the gold which will surely remain a lesson for any sportsperson to learn from.

 

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