Gone are the days when only cricket and football players were household names in India. After a resounding success of the first season of Star Sports Pro Kabaddi, now even kabaddi players hold a celebrity status. The first match of the franchise-based league was viewed by a whopping 435 million people across the country, which is almost three times the number of people who watched the 2014 FIFA World Cup in India.Kabaddi, which is also the national game of Bangladesh is a very popular sport when it comes to South Asia, but not many are familiar with this game in European and American countries. However, there are quite a few countries where the game of raiders and defenders holds a significant value. For eg. Did you know that England has a professional kabaddi league?Let us take a look at five countries you never thought played kabaddi:
Argentina, a South American country which is popularly known for its football team and players like Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano and Diego Maradona, has been a regular participant at the kabaddi World Cup since 2011.
In the second edition of the circle-style kabaddi world cup played in Punjab, the Argentinian team, under the coaching of Ricardo and leadership of Orlando Baccino, finished fifth out of seven teams in the group stage. They failed to improve on their skills and performance in the next edition as they won just one and lost two matches in the initial phase. Their performance got worse in the next two world cups, where they were beaten by each and every team that came their way.
#2 Sierra Leone
With a population of just over 6 lakhs, Sierra Leone is a small country in West Africa. It is predominantly a Muslim country, but there are quite a few Christian communities as well. The Sierra Leone team has participated in two Kabaddi World Cups till now.
In 2012, they were placed in group C along with Pakistan, Scotland and Italy. Coached by Gurmail Singh Dirbha, the team performed exceptionally well as they thrashed Italy 56-35 and Scotland 73-24 to finish second behind Pakistan. Despite failing to qualify for the knockout stage, they won everyone’s hearts through their stellar performance. They returned to the professional kabaddi circuit 2013, but this time the odds were not in their favour as out of five group matches they won just two and lost three.
The captain of the Sierra Leone national kabaddi team, Mohammad Kandey doubles up as an army man, whereas many other players work as bouncers in clubs across the country to keep their passion of playing kabaddi for the country alive.
Denmark is a small country in Northern Europe. It is located southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. With a population of just under six million, the country is famous for its water sports and football team.
However, Denmark has taken a fancy to the sport of kabaddi. Interestingly this game is much more popular among the women there than men. In the 2013 World Cup, the women’s Danish team surpassed everyone’s expectation by qualifying for the knockout stage.
In the group stage, they upstaged the strong Pakistani team by a scoreline of 45-39. However, they went down to New Zealand 21-45 in the semi-final clash. History was repeated again as they again lost to New Zealand in the semis of 2014 World Cup.
If given proper training, the Danish women’s team has the ability to defeat the best in the world of kabaddi. The men’s team, however, needs to work a lot harder if they want to match the skills and stamina of the South Asian countries.
Someone had rightly said ‘You can take a Kenyan out of athletics, but you can't take athletics out of a Kenyan’. There is no match to Kenyans when it comes to middle and long distance running, but slowly and steadily the nation has developed its interest in other games as well - one of them being kabaddi.
The Kenyan team, which first featured at the 2012 kabaddi World Cup was formed just 26 days prior to the event. The credit of creating the team from scratch goes to Manjinder Singh Brar, a former player hailing from Moga District in Punjab. The team, however, finished last in Pool- D after losing all the group matches. Their performance was more or less the same in the 2013 edition as well.
Even though the team hasn’t performed well at the highest level, this contact game is slowly developing its roots in the country. Simon Maina Kibura, 25, became the first Kenyan to play professional kabaddi after signing for Indian side Puneri Paltan in the second season of Star Sports Pro Kabaddi.
From football to tennis, swimming to shooting, Spain has been dominating the sports scene in almost all the sports. A part of European Union, Spain, which is famous for its bullfighting and La Tomatina festival has shown a keen interest in the game of kabaddi in the last few years.
Captained by Jose Maria Gulin, the Spanish kabaddi team has played in four circle-style world cups till now. Despite the Indian origin players forming the majority of the team, they haven’t fared well at the international circuit in the last few years.
They were thrashed in the first edition in 2010, but came back strongly next year by grabbing two wins out of six matches to finish 4th out of 7 teams in Pool B. Their performance at the 2013 and 2014 World Cups was nothing more than average.