England's kabaddi players quit jobs, move to India in quest to improve national team

March 25, 2024 3:43 pm

[Source: Reuters]

The mention of kabaddi often leaves Britons scratching their heads but a handful of players keen to develop the game in England have tried their best to explain the 4,000-year-old sport, well known to the country’s South Asian diaspora.

“I always say it’s like team wrestling with tag,” England international Felix Li said.

As a modern version of the discipline from ancient India slowly expands its presence globally, a group of enthusiasts from various backgrounds have banded together to establish England as an emerging nation in the sport ahead of a World Cup next year.

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Organised by the breakaway World Kabaddi Federation (WKF), the tournament in England will not feature national teams affiliated with its rival governing body, the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF).

However, for many of the dozens of kabaddi players in England, it is still an opportunity. With little money and recognition on offer, these international players find the time to play the sport between their day jobs and other obligations.

Li, a tech manager in a startup, and accountant Yuvraj Pandeya, quit their jobs altogether to pursue their passion abroad — a move that paid off when they were signed by Dabang Delhi in Pro Kabaddi (PKL), the premier league in the sport.

The PKL, launched by Mashal Sports in 2014, had 226 million viewers during the first 90 matches of its 2023-24 regular season, the league said in February.

“Felix is doing a daily vlog where he’s basically sending all the skills that we’ve learned back to the people in the UK,” Pandeya told Reuters.