Kabaddi: From Channel 4 To The World Kabaddi League
Saturday mornings on Channel 4 in the 1990s was a golden time for sports fans.
You had programmes like Transworld Sport which provided highlights around the world from sumo wrestling to handball. There was Football Italia where presenter James Richardson would show all the goals and news from Serie A in a café with a giant ice-cream sundae. And not forgetting a programme called Kabaddi which gave an insight into the tag and wrestling game from south Asia.
The programme may have only run for a couple of years but gave the sport a mainstream footing with highlights of matches from India like West Bengal v Punjab Police. After being introduced to Britain by south Asian immigrants, kabaddi has gone from strength to strength and the new season kicked off in Derby at the weekend.
England Kabaddi Federation
Every weekend there will be tournaments organised by the England Kabaddi Federation around the country. Gravesend, Essex will be hosting this weekend’s competition, followed by Telford, Shropshire the week after and then Barking in east London.
It will be a nostalgic experience to follow the game where two teams send a ‘raider’ into the other side’s half to win points by tackling members of the opposing team, before trying to return to their own half.
Kabaddi is thought to have been born in the UK in 2005 when Ashok Das, a former player born in Punjab, set up the England Kabaddi Federation and introduced the sport into the British Army.
Vishal Ladwa… has been dubbed the David Beckham of kabaddi.
International Kabaddi Cup
There are now around 18 recognised clubs across Britain, an open drug testing regime and an International Kabaddi Cup planned for August.
The game is popular because of its links to school games like ‘It’ and ‘British Bulldog’, where you tried to run from one end of the playground to the other without being ‘tagged’.
At elite level it is played by people of all backgrounds. The England women’s side is made up of ex-military and former rugby players and they reached the Kabaddi Cup Final in 2011.
The men’s team is captained by Vishal Ladwa, who has been dubbed the David Beckham of kabaddi. Vishal is the first England captain having been inspired by watching the sport on Channel 4.
World Kabaddi League
And worldwide the sport is set to reach new levels.
Next month will see the first World Kabaddi League to be played across four continents starting in India. Backed by the Punjab government, it will be an Indian Premier League cricket style competition with a players’ auction and franchises.
England will be among the nations competing along with Australia, Belgium, USA, Canada, India and Pakistan.
So thanks to Channel 4 in the early 1990s, the bare footed sport of kabaddi is set for a bright future. Could the next step be an Olympic sport in 2020?