Ultimate Kho Kho League 2020: India set to rekindle its love affair with an indigenous sport
Kho Kho is widely regarded as one of the most ancient sports in India, but with cricket, football among other games attracting a major chunk of the attention from sports aficionados in the country, the sport of Kho Kho has remained in the shadows for quite a few years.
Moreover, with sport-based franchise leagues such as the Pro Kabaddi League, Indian Super League and Premier Badminton League re-igniting the lost spark in Indian sports, Kho Kho has certainly taken a backseat.
However, with the Kho Kho Federation of India (KKFI) having recently announced the possibility of organising the inaugural Ultimate Kho Kho League, talented players from all over the country can now access a window of opportunities with the league certain to improve the financial and social lives of players from all across India.
With new introductions such as the exciting prospect of a 'Wazir' and changes in rules coming into play, the league could bring about a whole new look to the sport of Kho Kho.
Yet, KKFI's attempt to revive the sport and bring it to the masses is not only through the league but also extends to reaching out to the grassroots levels and unearthing some of the best talents, providing districts and states in India quality infrastructure and financial benefits to promote the sport and add to the rich haul of exciting talent.
With the Indian team putting up a dominating performance in the ongoing 13th South Asian Games 2019 at the time of this writing, the defending champions could be expected to put on a good show in the summit clash and seal yet another gold medal.
Sportskeeda caught up with KKFI Secretary M.S. Tyagi in an exclusive chat as he shed light on the immediate future of the sport, the inception of the franchise-based league and a lot more.
Q. India's dominance in the sport of Kho Kho at the South Asian Games is quite prominent. What do you think of the Indian team's chances of landing a gold medal from this edition of the competition?
India has always maintained an upper hand when compared to other countries. We have players eager to make a mark coming from all parts of the country, especially from Maharashtra and Punjab where the players give 100% and have complete backing from their families as well.
We have had foreign players coming to India to train and our coaches guiding Nepal as well, which speaks volume about the quality of Kho Kho that we have in our country.
I am sure that we will finish on the podium and will bring home the gold medal.
Q. A major driving factor behind India's consistent success is the fact that a lot of youngsters are putting in good performances. Do you feel that the Khelo India Games has contributed to the overall development?
The Khelo India Games is a great initiative for the youth to exhibit their skills and fetch recognition at a very young age. The media has also played a very big role in promoting this competition and shining a light on some of the best sporting prodigies in our country.
It's no small fact that for any athlete to succeed, they need to prove their worth on a consistent basis, and if the younger generation starts off with some top level performances at the Khelo India Games, they have a big chance of landing a spot in the senior side early in their career.
Q. The inaugural edition of the Ultimate Kho Kho League will be held in 2020. What are your expectations from the league, and how do you think it will benefit the players involved?
The league will certainly help players both financially and socially. Quite a few Kho Kho players who were drained out and were looking for alternate careers will now have an opportunity to get back to playing the game and earning a good sum of money from this league.
Friends or family members of players who feature in the first edition of the UKKL might get inspired to take up the sport, and with the foreign players also being drafted into the teams, one could expect the fame of the game to travel to all parts of the globe.
Q. The league structure is such that every team must have two mandatory foreign players and two youngsters from the U18 level as well. What is the idea behind this move?
We've seen all the franchise-based leagues play host to players from foreign nations and the UKKL will be no different in this regard. There are quite a few impressive players from Nepal, Bangladesh among other countries and handing them an opportunity to take part in the league will help spread the game's awareness in their country as well.
As for the U18 players, our emphasis is always on pushing youngsters to achieve stardom, and offering them a chance to rub shoulders with some experienced players can only help them hone their skill.
Q. What are some of the steps taken by the KKFI to influence a lot more players to try their hand at shaping a career in the sport?
KKFI's agenda is pretty straightforward, which is to ensure that top performances in the sport at any level are recognised. This is done by awarding youngsters with scholarships and signing them up for training programs to help improve their skill. However, it does not stop there.
For every player who wins a tournament in the sub-junior category, we award him or her ₹1000 per month, while the amount goes up as per the level of achievement. For the team which wins the senior nationals the reward is ₹2 lakh, the second-placed team gets ₹1.5 lakh and so on.
Additionally, we also ensure that the person responsible for registering players from his or her district is rewarded for the efforts and for each player registered with us, we give that district ₹1 lakh to ensure top-level facilities for the athlete to train.
Q. Given that the Ultimate Kho Kho League will be a brand new entrant into the world of franchise-based leagues, do you feel the need to overachieve so as to beat competition from the other leagues?
Personally, I wouldn't term the other leagues as competition, since they are all based on different sports. We will look to focus on the best we can bring to the table, and judging whether the league is a success or not is wholly dependent on the audience who follow the action.
Q. Finally, what was the response like, when the launch Ultimate Kho Kho League was officially announced?
You would not believe me if I said this, but the announcement saw quite a few players who were contemplating retirement spring back to action and make attempts to earn a spot in their respective sides.
We've received an overwhelming response from players of all ages including yesteryear players, while interestingly we have also received multiple entries for the role of match officials as well. For now, we at KKFI are in a happy place.