Pro Kabaddi, the first significant initiative of Mashal Sports, takes the truly indigenous sport of Kabaddi to new levels of professionalism. It not only benefits all the stakeholders involved in the ecosystem of the game, but also the players themselves, who become the new role models for the youth of India.
This bold step highlights the new, modern, international and competitive face of Kabaddi throughout the length and breadth of the country, and beyond.
Pro Kabaddi proposes an eight-city league with games to be played on a caravan basis. Each team plays each other twice every year, in July and August. In a significant value addition to Kabaddi, these games will be carried live on prime time TV by the international broadcaster, Star Sports, for millions to view across India and the world.
The Pro Kabaddi league is now in its second year. Backed by Shri. Anand Mahindra, International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) and the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI), Pro Kabaddi League’s debut was a roaring success. It received a cumulative reach of 435 million viewers, which was second only to Indian Premier League and much higher than other sporting events. Such was its reach that 1 in every 4 TV viewers tuned in to watch the final match. Apart from Kolkata, the other cities participating in the league are Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Jaipur, Vizag and Patna.
Kabaddi dates back to ancient, even pre-historic times. In Hindu mythology, historians find resemblance with the origins of Kabaddi and a specific situation in the great battle of Mahabharata, where the warrior Arjuna’s son, Abhimanyu, is trapped in the ‘Chakravyuha’ set by his enemies. He entered the grid and fought valiantly. However, it was this unequal battle of seven to one that ultimately lead to his demise. The sort of bravery, strength and courage shown by Abhimanyu is what lays the foundation of the game we now know as Kabaddi.
According to Buddhist literature, Gautama Buddha, during his days as Prince Siddhartha, played Kabaddi for recreational purposes. Additional sources of history also indicate that princes of yore played Kabaddi to display physical strength and speed to win their brides.
Kabaddi is a combative sport, with seven players on each side, played for a period of 40 minutes with a 5-minute break (20-5-20). The core idea of the game is to score points by raiding into the opponent’s court and touching as many defence players as possible without getting caught. One player, chanting Kabaddi over and over again, in one single breath, charges into the opponent’s court and tries to touch the closest opponent. Meanwhile, seven opponents manoeuvre to catch the attacker.
This is Kabaddi, the match of one against seven, known as the game of struggle. The players on the defensive side are called ‘Antis’ while the player on the offence is called the ‘Raider’. The attack in Kabaddi is known as ‘Raid’. The Antis touched by the Raider during the attack are declared ‘out’, but only if they don’t succeed in catching the raider before he returns to his home court. The player that got ‘out’ returns to the court either if his team’s Raider successfully tags an opponent, or his remaining team members succeed in catching the opponent’s Raider.
The origin of the game dates back to pre-historic times, played in different forms. The modern Kabaddi game was played all over India and some parts of South Asia from 1930. The first known framework of the rules of Kabaddi, as an indigenous sport of India, was prepared in Maharashtra in 1921 for Kabaddi competitions, combining the patterns of Sanjeevani and Gamini. Thereafter a committee was constituted in 1923, which amended the rules framed in 1921. The amended rules were applied during the All India Kabaddi Tournament organized in 1923.
The All India Kabaddi Federation was formed in 1950 to look after the promotion of the game and the Senior National Championship started in the year 1952. The new body, Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI) came into existence from the year 1972 affiliated to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) with a view to popularize the game in India and neighboring countries of Asia. After the formation of this body, Kabaddi took a new shape and National level competitions started for Junior and Sub-Junior boys and girls. A separate competition, the Federation Cup, was introduced for men and women for the elite teams (best eight) of the country.
The Asian Kabaddi Federation (AKF) was formed in 1978. The 1st Asian Kabaddi Championship was held in 1980. Kabaddi was then included as a demonstration game at the 9th Asian Games, New Delhi in 1982. The game was included in the South Asian Federation (SAF) games from the year 1984 at Dhaka, Bangladesh. Kabaddi was included as a regular sports discipline in the 11th Beijing Asian Games 1990 where India won the lone Gold Medal for Kabaddi-its only gold medal at Beijing. The Indian team continues to create history by winning the gold medal at each succeeding Asian Games held thereafter: Hiroshima 1994, Bangkok 1998, Busan 2002, Doha 2006 and Guangzhou 2010.
The International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) was formed during the 1st Kabaddi World Cup in Kabaddi 2004 at Mumbai in India. India won the World Cup by beating Iran in the finals. The 1st Asian Women’s Championship was held at Hyderabad in 2005 and India won the gold medal. Women’s Kabaddi was included for the first time in the South Asian Games held in Colombo, Sri Lanka 2006. The 2nd World Cup was held in India at Panvel in 2007 where India once again reigned supreme. Women’s Kabaddi was finally introduced at the Asian Games in Guangzhou 2010, where the Indian women created history by winning the gold medal.
For the first time in the history of the Asian Games, a separate indoor stadium was built for Kabaddi competitions, and training, for the 15th Asian Games held at Doha (Qatar) 2006. The training/warming up courts and main field of play was equipped with a giant public screen, which displayed replays and the running score. Two Tissot plasma scoreboards, info terminals for the presentation crew, the ceremony crew and the media were also provided.
The 15th Asian Games at Doha provided an excellent opportunity to showcase Kabaddi to many Europeans and Australians, who were responsible for organizing the Games. A large number of spectators belonging to European countries, USA, Australia, Western Asia and the Mediterranean countries, experiencing the game for the first time, were very impressed with the simple rules and the thrill of the sport and desired to introduce the sport in their countries. This had given Kabaddi a very good and positive exposure for its future development in the continents of Europe, USA, Australia and Africa.
Kabaddi had been included as a major discipline in the 2nd Asian Indoor Games that was held at Macau from 25th October to 3rd November 2007 and in the Asian Beach Games hosted by Indonesia in 2008, which are major landmarks in the history of the game. There has been a gradual but significant change in the trends of the game over the past fifty years. What was once considered a game of brawn is not so now. The introduction of mats, shoes, new techniques and changes in rules has made the sport infinitely more athletic and interesting. The modern, international, competitive avatar of Kabaddi has evolved into a spectacular, hugely popular sport in an ever-growing list of countries from around the globe.
This unique effort has the formal backing by the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF), the Asian Kabaddi Federation (AKF) & the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI), who will be closely associated with the organization and delivery of this event.