Just over a week ago, a 20-year-old kabaddi player lost h is life on the kabaddi court while playing in a local tournament in Chhattisgarh, India.
The incident happened just a couple of days after the death of another player under similar conditions in a district level competition in Andhra Pradesh.
The danger of picking up injuries, sometimes fatal, is not new in contact sports and kabaddi is no exception to such unfortunate if not rare incidents.
The World Kabaddi reached out to several experienced kabaddi coaches in India to digest such incidents and how it could be avoided if not eradicated.
Technical Commission chairman Dr Ishwar Angadi said that while some may put the blame entirely on the players, the underlying issue was proper education of players and also implementation of the rules strictly.
“It is really unfortunate. But it must be observed that the players have adopted a more aggressive approach to the game in recent years. The game is now much rougher than it was previously because they have been allowed to do so by the officials and coaches,” said Ishwar.
“There are existing rules to stop players from being too aggressive, but the technical officials have more often failed implement the rules effectively, giving room for players to commit gross violations,” said the former head of the Sports Authority of India Dharwad Centre.
“Technical officials are given ample powers to take control of the game to ensure no foul play or gross violations occur. There is a need to educate these officials, whether to start using these powers,” added Ishwar.
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He added that technical officials even at international and top level matches have failed to implement even basic rules like the need for players to maintain the chant of the world kabaddi continuously in one breath during a raid.
“So much so it has completely lost its significance as per the rules of the game. Likewise many rules are not enforced strictly, therefore players and coaches have taken advantage of the ineptness of the technical officials to their advantage and subsequently playing a rough game,” said Ishwar.
He added that while education the technical officials, coaches as well as the players on the strict definition of the existing rules should be a priority, the World Kabaddi Technical Commission would also conduct a study on how to enhance the existing rules, especially on dangerous play.
“This is not something that has never been done before. It is similar to how scissoring was banned in national style kabaddi. Charging, hitting, throwing themselves and falling on a Raider already caught is one area that needs to be studied further Direct kicking an anti when there are lesser number of defensive player on court, diving catches and intentionally falling on a players knees are other areas we seriously need to look at,” said Ishwar.
Jaivir Sharma, a coach from Gujarat concurred with Ishwar saying that there was a strong need to develop and enhance the rules on dangerous play.
“We need to identify the dangers techniques and ban them. Avoid charging, throwing, unnecessary pulling pushing even to look out for deliberate intention by the defenders and raiders. Some types of kicking are also very dangerous,” said Jaivir.
He added that the need to develop better quality technical officials was also very important.
“Their situation watching abilities well in advance must be honed. They need to be more assertive in pointing out and warning players not to apply dangerous techniques. Points are not important. But the value of life is more than points and victory,” he added.
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Former international and Arjuna Award winner Raju Bhavsar said that the incident involving the player in Chhattisgarh was very unfortunate but it was an extremely rare incident.
“I feel the raider himself is responsible for incorrect action to avoid struggle. Defenders’ reaction is quiet normal as in any practice or match,” he said.
Another coach Manjit Singh of Kerala concurred with Raju and added that it was also pertinent that players develop strength and co-ordination in specific joints and to learn and practice safety positioning techniques.
Deepak Patel, a senior coach from Maharashtra was of a similar opinion.
“The game intensity is now very high. The body position and movements of the raider shows his poor fitness level. If we completely restrict the defense it may affect the intensity of the game,” he added.
Sudesh Raina, a coach from Jammu and Kashmir said that players, both raiders and antis, must be made aware of how to avoid similar situations.
“I believe excessive struggle especially once a raider has been caught must be avoided,” he said.
Dr Dinesh Chawadary from Rajasthan and Dr Gulbahar Khan Delhi were also of the opinion that players also need to learn the advance techniques of escape and positioning in kabaddi.
World Kabaddi secretary S.T. Arasu said that there was also an urgent need for kabaddi to come up with its own crisis counseling and post trauma counseling for players in the sport.
“Incidents like what happened affect both the concerned player’s teammates as well as the rival team players. Major injuries and in this case fatal would affect all players and even the officials involved mentally. We must be able to provide the psycho-social support to them,” said Arasu.
He added that while the cases were rare, World Kabaddi needs to have the safeguards that would be available to the sport at all levels.
“Sadly, the loss of life has jolted many of us to what is still lacking in kabaddi as we look towards making it a truly global sport,” said Arasu.
He added that it was crucial that players, especially the younger players, are given the necessary support to avoid mental distress.
“World Kabaddi is committed in looking into these issues seriously. Kabaddi is a contact sport, but it is no more dangerous than any other contact sport,” he added.