Kabaddi is the national sport of Iran, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Although it is not the national sport of India, it is however, the state game of Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and the Tamil Nadu, home of Chennai. Kabaddi in Chennai takes on a whole new meaning, with the sport having evolved as the “game of the masses.”
Today, kabaddi ranks as the most popular sport among boys in the rural areas of Chennai. The popularity of the game stems from the fact that it has very simple rules and has no need for either a wide field or even a ball in order to play the game. All one needs is a whistle. With the very limited space and resources available to residents of these informal settlements, the inexpensive game of kabaddi makes it the ideal sport and pastime.
Having its origins in India, the term “kabaddi” is the Tamil equivalent of “holding of hand.” However, in the game itself, it certainly has no gentle hand-holding. Kabaddi, in fact, resembles combat training and is a very aggressive team sport.
The game involves two teams fighting it off from opposite sides of a field. Each team has seven players in addition to three members in reserve. The teams take turns in playing offense and defense. One team takes offense and sends a “raider” into the court of the other team. Points are awarded for successful tackles of members of the rival team. In order to complete the round, however, the raider must avoid getting caught and be able to return to his home court, all the while chanting “kabaddi, kabaddi….kabaddi.”
A game is played in forty minutes split into two halves with a five-minute halftime interval after which the teams will change sides. Game officials include a referee, two umpires, one scorer and two assistant scorers.
Kabaddi was included in the Asian Games for the first time in 1990, enjoying the interest and patronage of a growing number of followers. Since then, it has become a preferred fixture in the Asian Games.
The first ever Kabaddi World Cup was held in 2004. To date, two other Kabaddi World Cups have been held, in 2007 and 2010. On all three occasions, India has won the championship and remains unbeaten till the present, beating Pakistan and Iran, countries whose national sport is Kabaddi.
A recent innovation in the game was women’s kabaddi, which first debuted at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games. Once again, India brought home the gold medal. The first Women’s Kabaddi World Cup, on the other hand, was held in 2012 in India, with the home team winning the championship and defeating Iran in the final competition.
Kabaddi in Chennai is deeply ingrained in the lives and recreation of its residents. Young and old, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, rich and poor, all possess a deep enjoyment of the game. Chennai constituents deeply take pleasure in watching the kabaddi games, while tourists must make sure that they get to witness a game of kabaddi to avoid having their tour of Chennai be incomplete.