Literary great George Bernard Shaw once said: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
For Siti Nuraizasyabila Mohd Khosim, it was her determination in swimming against the current that has defined her career in kabaddi.
The 23-year-old, better known as Bella not only went against the norm in taking up the sport, but can be proud of her achievement since.
“I picked up the game in school in 2011. With a tournament taking place in two months, we were coached by my teachers Miss Marutha and Miss Aznur Yanti, who themselves new to the game. Our senior Mr Arunkumar also helped guide us,” said Bella.
But, the SMK Taman Ehsan school team struggled to convince other female students to take up the game.
“Some quit because of injuries they picked up during training and some because their parents were not agreeable to them playing kabaddi,” said Bella.
With kabaddi, being a traditional game originating in India, the group tried to convince their Indian friends to join the team.
“We were shocked when they told us that playing kabaddi is too physical and causes injuries and that it is not suited for girls. Frankly we were shocked as this is an Indian cultural game,” she added.
For Bella, she had no such problem in giving full concentration to the sport, especially with the support from her parents.
“While some were against me taking up kabaddi, my family fully supported me taking up the contact sport. They gave equal priority for both sports and education. In fact I was still very active in kabaddi during my SPM (School Certificate) and my diploma finals,” said Bella who holds a Diploma in Human Resource Management.
With just two months training, her school team went on to finish 1st runners-up in the district tournament and a year later they emerged champion at the Gombak District inter-school championships.
“My parents have always motivated me from day one and have always helped me financially to attend trainings,” said Bella.
Following the success at the district level competition in 2012, Bella and teammate Nur Farahin were selected to represent the district at the state level championships.
“We finished runners-up at the state level and I received the Curriculum Award for Sports by my school and a few months later I was called up for the SUKMA (national Games) training for Kuala Lumpur,” she added.
Bella, who also plays netball, volleyball and handball, she said that joining the state team was an entirely new experience for her.
“I joined the training and everything was new to me, but I tried to mingle around with my new teammates. Everything went smoothly and we ended up with the silver medal. Finishing with the silver was not satisfying but we did give our best,” said Bella.
Two years later, Bella made her international debut at the World Invitational Cup in Faridabad, with the team finishing second behind India. She was also by then a regular in the Kuala Lumpur team, winning the silver at the 2016 International Inter City Kabaddi Championships.
Bella, who had also successfully passed the Level One Technical Officials Course last year, was also a member of the Malaysian side that finished third behind India and Taiwan at the Melaka World Cup Kabaddi.
“I had always had the belief that I can make the national team and did not want to give up that easily. Many said that I cannot go far as this was an Indian sports,” said Bella.
She added that her progress was supported and helped by the Malaysia Kabaddi Federation (MKF) and also by the guidance from national coach R Balamurugan.
“Syukur Alhamdulillah! It was totally unexpected but deep in me I knew I will be wearing the jersey with Malaysia flag close to my heart. It’s a feeling that I can never put in a word but it was something that I wanted to achieve. A dream come true moment. In addition, It was like a bonus for me that I was the Captain of Malaysia Kabaddi Women’s Team,” said Bella, whose idol in the game is Indian player Mamatha Poojary.
Mamatha. is the former captain of the Indian team, an Arjuna Awardee, she is known by her nickname ‘Kabaddi Queen’.
“I grew up by watching her videos in YouTube and other webs since 2012. Such a talented player. I wish I could meet her one day and wish to have her jersey with her autograph. Literally a dream for me!” said Bella.
During this Covid-19 pandemic, Bella is not only pursuing a new business career but also on social work.
Together with her national teammate Thivya Mohanakrishnan, she formed Bell & Beyond in October selling the Malaysian dish of Nasi Lemak for a mere RM1.
“We are also actively involved in social services by providing meals to homeless, orphanages and also needy families financially. All this happened with the help of some good souls who sponsored us. We even received sponsorship from Hong Kong, India and Singapore,” said Bella.
Bella is hopeful that more tournaments and kabaddi activities would be organised to promote and develop and promote the game further in Malaysia.
“We definitely need a proper national training venue where centralised training programme can help to build a stronger and talented player – physically and mentally,” said Bella.
She added that by organising kabaddi clinics in all schools and universities, the game would gain a higher profile.
“The MKF has done a great job in the development of kabaddi in Malaysia. I’m sure they have more plans for more tournaments and clinics to be executed after the pandemic,” said Bella.
The MKF was picked as the Best National organisation by the World Kabaddi in conjunction with the World Kabaddi Day in March.
“Kabaddi is a sports. Kabaddi does not know what race or gender you are. It’s equal to all. Everyone can enjoy playing kabaddi!” said Bella, who cherishes the friendship she has built by playing kabaddi.
“Every moment in the kabaddi court is the best memory. Winning or losing is next. The memories we gain during the moment matters the most.”
And to those thinking of picking up kabaddi or any other sports, Bella wants them to believe in themselves first.
“Learn from Zero, Beginner. Respect your coach and teammates. Have passion. Believe in yourself. Doa!” she said.