Kabaddi World Cup - it's all about being Punjabi

By Jaideep Sarin

Chandigarh, April 6 (IANS) Dulla Pehalwan from the US, Jassa from Italy and Jinder Amli from Canada... all have gathered in Punjab for the first edition of the World Cup Kabaddi Punjab 2010 that is turning out to be quite a gathering of Punjabis from all over the world playing the game.

While the Canadian team in the nine-nation tournament boasts of names like Jinder Amli, Lucky Kurali, Bhoora and Aman Kundi, the US side has two Pehalwans -- Dulla Pehalwan and Jassi Pehalwan -- in its ranks.

The team from Italy includes surnames like Kala, Jassa, Laddi and Billa. In fact, sources in the sports department said two teams from Italy arrived in Ludhiana last week. The organisers had to shortlist players from both sides to create one team.

They are all Punjabi youth settled in other countries and invited by the Punjab government to put up a global kabaddi show celebrating the traditional game of the state - the brainchild of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

The 11-day event, which started April 3, is said to cost over Rs.100 million (Rs.10 crore), including nearly Rs.22.5 million (Rs.2.25 crore) in prize money. The cost, to be borne by the state government and its agencies in getting the events organised across several towns and cities of the state, will be much more, officials said.

For the record though Amli means drug addict when translated from Punjabi, Kundi means an illegal power connection, Bhoora means brown and Kurali is a small town, 30 km from Chandigarh. Pehalwan means a wrestler while Kala, Laddi, Jassa and Billa are typical Punjabi nicknames.

Only the teams from Iran, Pakistan and hosts India seem to have genuine players from respective nationalities participating in the kabaddi world cup.

The rest of the teams, obviously having no official recognition from the countries that they represent since kabaddi is not even considered a sport there, are full of players who are basically Punjabi residing in the countries.

"We were asked to organise teams from leading countries. We did whatever we could manage. Otherwise, sports officials in some of the countries don't even know anything about kabaddi," a Punjab sports department official told IANS on condition of anonymity.

Badal, who is also president of the ruling Akali Dal in Punjab, personally monitored the organisation while his brother-in-law and Akali legislator Bikram Singh Majithia is heading the organising committee of the multi-million rupee event.

"We want to promote traditional games like kabaddi and put them on the international scene. This will also help our (Punjab) youth stay away from menace like drug addiction," Badal had said recently.

Officials representing other countries are also basically Punjabis of Indian origin. In fact, in some of the teams all the players are of Punjabi origin.

While the Canadian team has Kulwinder Singh Biharipuria as captain, the team from Spain has Malkit Singh as coach and captain. The Australian squad is being led by Rajiv Kumar, and the US team by Tirath Singh Gakhal. Italy has Kamaljit Singh as captain.

Norway, which withdrew from the tournament at the last minute, also had several Punjabis in the team.

Kabaddi, a contact sport that originated in India, is played in two halves of 20 minutes each. The game is played across length and breadth of India and requires no sophisticated equipment.


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