‘Kabaddi… Kabaddi… Kabaddi…’ How did this Indian sport end up in Taiwan?

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Kabaddi is a “contact sport” requiring players to hold hands, attack the opposing side and defend their side. This sport does not require sticks, balls, or any other type of special equipment. Traditionally it was played on the floor, and yet, with the evolution, at the international level, it is now played on a mat. The entire game takes place in an area of ​​10 by 13 meters (8 by 12 meters in the case of women). Each team has seven players and take turns attacking the opposing side and defending their side.

My friends, I have a special request first. Before reading the entire article, can you try speaking “Kabaddi… Kabaddi… Kabaddi…” all at once for at least a minute? I’ll let you judge yourself and your friends for how long you’ve been doing this.

This article will be part of a series on the development of the Kabaddi game in Taiwan. The entire “Kabaddi” series of articles will also feature coaches and players.

Origin of Kabaddi

For those who don’t know, Kabaddi hails from India and is popular in South Asia and among the South Asian diaspora around the world. Over the years, Kabaddi has found his fans in Korea, Japan and countries in Southeast Asia. The word “Kabaddi” comes from the Tamil language of the word “Kai-pidi”, which means “hold hands”. It is also assumed to be over four thousand years old, developed by Buddhist warriors learning self-defense.

Kabaddi is a “contact sport” requiring players to hold hands, attack the opposing side and defend their side. This sport does not require sticks, balls, or any other type of special equipment. Traditionally it was played on the floor, and yet, with the evolution, at the international level, it is now played on a mat. The whole game takes place in an area of ​​10 by 13 meters (8 by 12 meters in the case of women). Each team has seven players and takes turns attacking the opposing side and defending their side.

The game lasts 40 minutes. At the just concluded Tokyo 2020 Olympics, it is incredible to see Indian and Taiwanese athletes winning the most medals for their respective countries. Sport, in addition to teaching us the discipline, also teaches us to respect ourselves beyond nationalities. One of the best examples you can see of the Olympics is when Taiwanese badminton player Tai Tzu Ying shared a story about how PV Sindhu from India comforted her when she lost her match.

To understand the development of the Kabaddi game, I tried to dig into the history of how it got to Taiwan, who was responsible for it, and many such questions. This would not have been possible without Tai Tzu Ying’s post on social media. It reminded me of a whirlwind moment I saw of Kabaddi’s game where the Taiwanese women’s team won bronze at the 2018 Asian Games held in Indonesia. It is always moving to see how the two countries forge a special bond through sport.

Immediately I took action, and with the help of the Taiwan office (Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India) in New Delhi, I found out that Taiwan had its own Kabaddi federation. Contacting the office, Federation President Kabaddi, Mr. Huang Chung-jeng, was more than willing to discuss it. To help me with the interpretation, I asked my friend for help. She runs her page on Indonesia. You can follow his great work here- @apakabar_indo.

Here is the interview transcript:

How and when did the idea for Kabaddi come to Taiwan?

This was from 2006, when I was vice president of the Chinese Taipei Athletes Association. I visited Doha, Qatar, to participate in the Asian Games which were held from December 1 to 15, 2006. I saw Sepaktakraw and Kabaddi there, and I realized that Taiwan does not have these two games. When I returned, I brought the idea for these two games to Taiwan and approached the government to seek permission and create an agency for the game.

When did you take office as President of the Kabaddi Federation?

It was January 26, 2008, when the Kabaddi Federation started. The head of the organization could serve for eight years in usual cases, until the Taiwanese government passes the national sports law in 2017. The new law changes the president’s tenure after March 31, 2018. As a result, I headed the Federation. for a while.

How did you get started promoting this game?

First, I approached the leaders of the Asian and International Federation of Kabaddi, who were both Indians. They responded positively when I asked if Taiwan could participate as well.

After our organization participated in the international games, I tried to establish a Kabaddi organization in each district. There is a sports administration in every district and I tried to include Kabaddi in every sports organization.

On the other hand, I tried to promote the game in all schools, from junior high to college. By organizing exhibition matches for players in front of the students to attract them more towards her.

What kinds of challenges do you face when promoting Kabaddi?

As long as we’ve been promoting Kabaddi for the past 10-12 years, it’s still new in Taiwan. We don’t have enough coaches and players, and we don’t have a club approach like other countries. We promote it from the school level. As far as we know, many physical education teachers have already promoted other sports; some of them are reluctant to train at Kabaddi when asked to do so. As I mentioned earlier, it is still a very new sport for Taiwanese.

How has Taiwanese reacted to the game over the years?

Firstly, they are very curious because they have never seen it. Kabaddi is still an unknown sport here, and yet it is somewhat similar to our local game called Eagle Catching Chicken. The Federation tried to organize more contests to attract and cultivate more Taiwanese audiences.

Where are these Kabaddi games played?

There are two fixed games in Taiwan every year. One is Kabaddi’s Taiwanese Championship and the other is the President’s Cup Championship held for distinguished student players as a means of obtaining higher education. There are also the National Games which take place once every two years. As these attract most of the Taiwanese, we try to organize games there.

How did you manage to get a coach?

Every year, we organize four to five coaching education courses in Taiwan. We used to send Taiwanese players to India for training because it helped us develop our talent pool.

What government support do you receive in addition to monetary support?

Besides the money, the government supports us by organizing international kabaddi games and inviting teams from other countries.

Where do you think you can increase people’s interest in Kabaddi in Taiwan?

The first thing is to promote this game faster. We plan to set up the organization in every district and let more schools join in this game. Through education, I think targeting students at a younger age is what we can do. We also hope to increase interest in Kabaddi among physical education teachers.

Have Taiwanese companies expressed an interest in supporting the Kabaddi team?

Although we have tried to set up committees in each district, most companies do not know Kabaddi. We have tried to introduce Kabaddi to business lines in the hope of gaining their support, but there are still challenges ahead.

Last but not least, a message to the Indians of Taiwan who share the passion of Kabaddi?

Hope the Taiwanese Indians can form a team and participate in the local games held in Taiwan as a club. It will help promote the game among the diaspora here.

It will not be wrong to say that Mr. Huang is the “Father of Kabaddi” in Taiwan. After speaking with Mr. Huang, it opened my eyes in several ways, and I discovered another aspect of the India-Taiwan partnership. In the next piece, I will introduce two brothers who have been playing Kabaddi for over ten years now and who have been a vital inspiration to aspiring Kabaddi players.

(The aforementioned article is an interview with the President of the Taiwanese Kabaddi Federation by Mr. Manoj Kumar Panigrahi. It is taken from the website Crossing (https://crossing.cw.com.tw/article/15412) with the consent and permission of the website publisher and the relevant author.

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