Veteran Indian kabaddi stalwart Achintya Kumar Saha or more popularly known as A.K. Saha finally received the Lifetime Achievement Award from World Kabaddi at his home in Calcutta yesterday.
The 82-year-old was picked for the Lifetime Achievement award in the polling done in conjunction with the World Kabaddi Day last year but no ceremony was conducted due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
World Kabaddi media commission member Kaustabh Sarkar visited the ailing kabaddi administrator to hand over the Award certificate to Saha.
World Kabaddi decided to make a personal yet meaningful presentation as Saha himself has not been at the best of health and has been bedridden for several months now.
Saha while unable to speak, was clearly happy that the kabaddi community still remembered him.
While many may not remember his contribution to kabaddi, Saha played an instrumental part in the inclusion of kabaddi at the Asian Games as well as introducing the game to countries outside South Asia.
Saha, who hails from Calcutta has been involved in kabaddi since 1958 and was elected as the treasurer of the governing body for kabaddi in India in 1972. He was also a member of the Asian Sports For All Association (ASFAA)
In 1978 he was elected as the first secretary of the Asian kabaddi body. He led a four-strong delegate – together with Onkar Pasad, Sadhana Dharia and Basanti Bordeto – to Bangkok the same year to lobby the inclusion of kabaddi into the Asian Games.
It was through his efforts that the first Asian Championships was held in West Bengal in 1980. Saha was in the thick of matters in pushing for kabaddi inclusion at the Asiad over the next decade.
In early 1990, at his invitation, a delegation from China headed by Prof. Sun-Min-Zhi Director of XI Asian Games competition visited India to attend an international kabaddi tournament.
Following the visit China agreed to include kabaddi as a demonstration sports at the Beijing Asian Games in September the same year.
Two years later he attended the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) general assembly, to appeal for the inclusion of kabaddi as a medal sports at the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games.
In June 1992, kabaddi was finally accepted as a medal sport at the Asian Games.
Saha continued to serve at the international level before handing over the helms to a new generation of administrators.
While he was appointed as the Honorary Life President of Asian Amateur Kabaddi Federation (AAKF), his role in both national and international levels were quickly forgotten.
While we and idolise stars on the court, it is administrators like Saha, who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to lay the foundation stones for the development of the sport of kabaddi.