Kabaddi originated in India way back during the time of the pandavas but came on international Map during SAF Games, Dhaka in 1985. Kabaddi got its major breakthrough in 1990 when it was included in the Asian Games during 11th Asian Games at Beijing-China in 1990. Since then, Kabaddi is a regular discipline in the Asian Games.
India played an important role in introducing the game of Kabaddi to the African countries, while hosting a demonstration sport in the Afro-Asian Games, in 2002. India also successfully took part in the first World Kabaddi Championship held at Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Kabaddi in India touched another milestone in 2004, when India hosted the first ever Kabaddi World Cup, in Mumbai. India became the winner of the World Cup as well. India has produced a number of talented Kabaddi players, so far, who have earned international recognition.
The game is extremely popular in countries like Canada and England. Kulwinder Singh, captain of the Canadian team and originally from Kapurthala, told HT, “Kabaddi is very popular in Canada and a good player can earn his living through it,” According to an article in Imagementors.com (“Kabaddi players hit jackpot on the west“). India captain Mangat Singh Mangi got a 20 lakh contract, while Gurlal Singh Ghanour, and is the highest paid player on the English circuit, with a 25 lakh deal.
It is marked its presence even on social networking sites with a page on face book with as nearly 900 fans (889 people likes). You can access it at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kabaddi/109441309082794.
But still the sport, like many others, has not gained much commercial popularity among the masses in India because of the nation’s obsession with cricket. Off beat sports like kabaddi may have it even harder than others, like hockey or basketball, as they also have to deal with perception.
Vidisha Bhambri, a student says that, “these games (on being asked about kabaddi and kho kho) are not actual sports. Nobody has the time to watch them. It’s like watching some gully danda or gully cricket“. This is the popular opinion among most youth about kabaddi.
A perception of this sort may be attributed to a slight subconscious colonial hangover as the most popular sports in India – cricket and football are a big rage in our erstwhile colonist country the UK. If it is true then may be in a decade or so as kabaddi becomes more popular in England it may gain mass appeal in India too. However so far it is only speculation as it is extremely hard to pin point a cause.
There are various opinions about ways of increasing the commercial value of the sport. Many believe that the sport itself should build its appeal among the masses on the basis of its nature, rules and entertainment quotient. A contrary opinion is that Kabaddi already has very simplistic rules and is very easy to play and almost every kid in India (especially rural India) is acquainted with the sport. Therefore to increase its ‘business appeal’ the need of the hour is to change opinions about the game and get it the status of a proper physical sport, which requires a mix of skills like wrestling, speed and agility.
The various associations involved in generating awareness about kabaddi like The Kabaddi Federation of India (KFI) could hold big tournaments at school level and encourage participation by offering attractive prizes, awards and scholarships. However awareness needs to be raised at both rural and urban level so that it does not become a marker of social background and is able to gain maximum popularity.