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Pro Panja League: "The basic simplicity of the sport attracted me"- Co-founder Parvin Dabas

Co-founder Parvin Dabas and Olympian Vijender Singh (L); Female arm wrestler Chetna Sharma with the league banner (R) (Pic Credit: Pro Panja League)
Co-founder Parvin Dabas and Olympian Vijender Singh (L); Female arm wrestler Chetna Sharma with the league banner (R) (Pic Credit: Pro Panja League)

The sport of arm wrestling has now taken competitive form, grabbing several eyeballs across the nation in the form of the Pro Panja League, India's biggest arm wrestling tournament. Arm wrestling, which has been a prominent part of every one of our childhoods, is often referred to as India’s favorite pastime.

In a unique bid in sports, Pro Panja is emulating the popular league format for arm wrestling.

The maiden venture of the Pro Panja League was institutionalized in 2020 in India. This opened the doors for thousands of enthusiasts who could now compete professionally in the sport.

What a slam bam start we had to the @ProPanjaLeague #ProPanjaLeague with Hon’ble MOS Youth Affairs & Sports Shri @KirenRijiju ji inaugurating and gracing the tournament & @boxervijender bhai rocking the event πŸ‘ŠπŸ»βœŒπŸ» Much gratitude to them πŸ™πŸ» https://t.co/5Q4Ktu2ufc

Parvin Dabas, Pro Panja League co-founder, speaks exclusively to Sportskeeda

In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Parvin Dabas, the Pro Panja League's co-founder, elaborated on the idea of the league and its future plans.

Q: How has the journey been since 2020? Did COVID-19 impact the league events before it could take off?

A: It has been challenging. I never look at things as hard or easy, we deal with things according to the circumstances. It was a little difficult because we had just started. Unlike other sports, we wanted to take a different approach, presenting the Pro Panja League to the nation and reintroducing the already famous sport to people in India.

The COVID-19 lockdown was challenging. However, at the same time, it has allowed us to do things at our own pace. We have tried organizing the sport in multiple places, including in front of the Gateway of India, and on top of a casino boat. This has allowed us to be flexible and helped us showcase it to future stakeholders.

Q: How many years of investment and planning went into conceptualizing the Pro Panja League project?

A: It took four years. It was 2016 when the idea of bringing in a new event, the Panja League, seemed very interesting to me, where I felt I could make the difference. The basic simplicity of the sport attracted me. I was aware while putting everything onto paper that the Panja League has the potential to become people's favorite sport.

Q: When you reached out to the federations, what were the initial reactions to the idea of the Pro Panja League?

A: We are known for our entertainment and, (with) my sporting history with MMA India and various other things, federations were very open to it. However, there has been a lot of back and forth and discussions, and they have been very supportive towards us through the ups and downs of the lockdown and everything. Hopefully, 5-6 years down the line, the horizons will broaden for the team.

🚨🚨 RULES ALERT🚨🚨The Arm Wrestlers competing at the Pro Panja League ranking tournament will only be allowed a leeway of 500 Grams. Any Athlete exceeding this will immediately be bumped to the next weight class.#ArmWrestling #ProPanjaLeague #PPL2022 https://t.co/sJkUoB0rhA

Q: What are some of the models you have been following to bring in the players, the best players from across the nation? Also, having said that, tournaments like these often see foreign talent as well. So are you considering foreign talent as well?

A: The federation plays a huge part because they have a massive pool of players. We have a large base because each state has its own pool of players. A huge number of players are navigating towards us through the federations as well as directly.

Yes, we are planning on bringing in foreign players as well. In fact, foreign players are reaching out to us. However, we want to take the first few years and concentrate on building the standards of Indian players.

Q: Keeping in mind the broadcast, what sort of sponsorships and partnerships are you looking at?

A: Lockdown did put a pause as to booking the broadcast dates and everything. However, things have gotten better with time and we are able to book the broadcast dates and plan out everything.

Q: How do you really fit in the dates of Pro Panja League, considering the the other popular Leagues like IPL, ISL, PKL among others?

A: I'll just tell you how it's gonna work. The Pro Panja League ranking tournament is going to be about four days. Now, the league itself, we're going to start with about seven weeks, okay, you know, so it's just a little under two months, and we will keep growing it and we're going to start off with six teams and then we'll keep growing it, we've already got a plan.

Looking at the Mega matches and UFC-style fight nights, we are slowly going to spread across and then gradually keep growing it.

Q: What are your thoughts on audiences being divided?

A: We're looking at tier two, tier three, tier four and beyond cities, and I feel that is a market that really hasn't been tapped into as such. Of course, kabaddi does it to a certain extent, even the IPL does, having fans everywhere.

But beyond that, a lot of the sports, even though popular abroad, are niche in our country. The Panja League, like I said, is a sport that is not niche. Everybody feels they can participate, and our players also come from tier two, tier three, tier four cities.

Q: Although the league is in its initial years, how much of an involvement of female athletes is already there?

A: The Pro Panja League is the first all-inclusive, non-discrimination kind of league and sports tournament. Not just women, but specially-abled players as well. We include women, we've already got quite a few women champions who are making names for themselves, especially able champions.

We have basically six weight categories in men, two for women and one open category for specially abled. So, there's absolutely no discrimination. We have included everybody, and we will hopefully start increasing the number of weight categories for women going forward.

Q: Where are the hotbeds of the sport by itself, are there specific cities or areas?

A: The hotbeds are Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, NCR, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Hyderabad to some extent, Assam and the Northeast as well as Odisha and Uttar Pradesh.

Also read: Pro Panja League: Asia's biggest arm-wrestling league to commence ranking tournament in Gwalior on July 22

Edited by Puranjay
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