India’s Rakesh Kumar ranks among the best of players India has ever produced in the game of kabaddi.
Alongside the likes of S Rajarathinam, Honnapa C Gowda and BC Ramesh, he is seen as one of the most influential players in the kabaddi crazy nation over the last five decades.
Rakesh, who celebrated his 40th birthday just a day ago, may not be playing any longer, but still holds sway in the sport among the upcoming players around the world.
“I have lived my journey as a player till now. I look forward to being a coach and share my experiences and expertise with the younger generation,” said Rakesh, who is an ambassador to the ongoing British Kabaddi League (BKL).
Rakesh, who hails from a village in North West Delhi is well-known for his ability to defend as well as attack.
It was this ability that saw him being an integral part of the Indian team for more than a decade. Among his accolades includes three Asina Games crowns, two World Cups, three Asian Indoor titles as well as a multitude of other international successes.
That he is now hoping to help a new generation of players not only in India but to the burgeoning number of players around the world shows his intent to see the game gain a foothold internationally.
Rakesh will be at hand to mentor and inspire the players at the second leg of the BKL, starting in Manchester today.
“Players like me can contribute as trainers and coaches internationally. As this game is still not globally known, we can come forward and help everyone know the game well,” said Rakesh, who was one of the most expensive players in the Pro-Kabaddi League’s first auction.
His presence at the BKL, may surprise some, but sees the opportunity to see the game gain more traction outside of India.
The BKL is likely not to be the only medium that the former Arjuna awardee would use in the coming years to help promote the game. He received the Arjuna Award, given to the best of Indian sportsmen, back in 2011.
“Yes the game is huge in india. But it is also an undeniable fact that it has been mostly confined in India till now. International leagues like British Kabaddi League will give this game the international recognition it needs and a much bigger audience all over the world,” said Rakesh.
The BKL is organized by the English and Scottish kabaddi associations under the auspices of World Kabaddi. The league feature players from around Europe, predominantly from the United Kingdom representing eight clubs in its inaugural season.
Birmingham Bulls, Wolverhampton Wolfpack, Walsall Hunters, Leicester Warriors, London Lions, Edinburgh Eagles, Glasgow Unicorns and Manchester Raiders are fighting for the inaugural crown. The first leg in Wolverhampton saw the Brimingham Bulls winning all their three matches to top the table.
The BKL is also being telecast live on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).
“Emerging players will now be able to see the vast opportunities that kabaddi can offer today. Me standing here is the result of this game and i will always be thankful towards it,” said Rakesh.
He added that it was about time that kabaddi fought for its place in the Olympics. Kabaddi was featured as an unofficial demonstration sport at the 1936 Berlin Olympics but has never gained any recognition since then.
He hoped that kabaddi, which is now gaining more popularly known international, would be included in the Olympics.
“Kabaddi has grown drastically since the time I started playing. Now kabaddi is on global platform. Even the leagues in India and abroad give kabaddi a new face. It has grown from being a local traditional game of India to being an internationally recognized,” said Rakesh.
While he has set his sights on helping the game gain a higher pedestal, Rakesh has not forgotten that the game needed the players to move forward.
“Kabaddi is a playful team game but l listening to your coaches and trainers will take you to greater heights,” Rakesh advised to the young emerging players.
Rakesh himself took up kabaddi in 1997 during his school days and moved up the rankes quickly both because of his raw talent and his hardwork both on and off the courts.
After having played for his school team, he represented Delhi at the national level, before making it to the senior national team in 2003.