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Fans and players of the South-Asian sport, Kabbadi, united at The Indian Club in Hoora for a day-long tournament, featuring 14 teams from across the kingdom.
Kabaddi is a contact team sport, played between two squads of seven players. The objective of the game is for a single player on offence, referred to as a “raider”, to run into the opposing team’s half of a court, tag out as many of their defenders as possible and return to their own half of the court, all without being tackled by the defenders.
Points are scored based on the number of opponents tagged by the raider, provided he makes it back to his home-zone, while the opposing team earns a point for stopping the raider. Players are taken out of the game if they are tagged or tackled but are brought back in for each point scored by their team from a tag or tackle.
If the raider steps beyond the bonus line marked in the defending team’s territory, they earn an additional point known as bonus point. Players who step out of the boundary or lobbies are also out. If a team gets all seven players on the opposing team out (“All Out”), they earn two additional points, and the players are placed back in the game.
Stalin Joseph, president of The Indian Club, said: “In my day, the raid had to be done in a single breath, but now, we play by pro Kabbadi rules. A 30-second shot clock is enforced on each raid.”
Kabbadi can be a very close match, as GulfWeekly witnessed in the first game of the tournament, played between United Puttur ‘B’ and Indian Club ‘A’ where Indian Club ‘A’ came back from a 13-7 in the first 10-minute half, to win with a breath-holding 21-23.
The tournament was in a knock-out format where only the winners proceeded to the next round so losing a single match could mean the end of the team’s championship dreams.
It is also a very physically demanding game. The Hilal Medical team was on hand to apply some numbing spray and put the players back in. There were sprains and strains, in addition to heat exhaustion but it is all part of the game, which could be seen as a cross between tag, wrestling and rugby, albeit with a human-sized ball.
Kabaddi originated in the modern Tamil region of the Indian subcontinent, which is predominantly present day Tamil Nadu and parts of other South Indian states of India, with some legends saying that the Gautama Buddha played the sport. The word kabaddi has been derived from the Tamil word “kai-pidi” which means “to hold hands.”
The defending players often hold hands to form a wall that can surround the raider and prevent them from making it back. In recent years, a standardised professional version has emerged which is also played at the Asian Games.
Joseph added: “In Bahrain, we like to hold this tournament at least once a year, with some private ones being organised as well. It’s an opportunity for kabbadi enthusiasts to come together in friendly competition.”
The final match of the tournament, played between United Puttur ‘A’ and Bahrain Bearys A, got a little over-friendly at times, as disputes arose, based around rules. At one point, spectators’ videos were replayed to confirm the call on a raid in a conflict that almost escalated to a full fight.
Disputes aside, teams were quite friendly to another, often helping up the raider they had just tackled and making sure they were okay.
The champions of the night, United Puttur, won by a razor-thin margin of 25-24 and walked away with bragging rights, a trophy and $200 (BD75) in prize money. The runners-up Bahrain Bearys A walked away with $100 (around BD38).
The tournament was part of the Ponnanna Polari celebrations being held at the Indian Club, which cap off with a communal feast, “Onam Sandhya” this Friday.