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Asian Games

Pressure by Federation subdued us, says Payel Chowdhury captain of women's Kabaddi Team

Pressure by Federation subdued us, says Payel Chowdhury captain of womens Kabaddi Team

Sohinee Basu

Published: 26 Aug 2018 3:26 PM GMT
If there is one sport that India has always dominated from the get-go, it must have been Kabaddi. The Indian team-both men and women perpetually occupied the thrones in every Kabaddi tournament. For a long, long time there wasn't another country who could match up, let alone outclass, the brilliance of the Indians when it came to charging Kabaddi raids and winning the matches. But the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games told another story altogether as Iran shot into the scene and extended their legs and arms to grapple on to the peak spot that India held. The Iranian team shook the Indian Women's team up wholly as they knocked out the girls from that coveted top spot and grabbed it for themselves beating them 24-27 in a nail-biting and surreal final finish.

But for the Indian women, the gloomy clouds had already gathered overhead.

Speaking to The Bridge in an exclusive interview, the Captain of the Indian Women's Team, Payel Chowdhury had a mixed bag of emotions with the silver in hand now. Somehow the match didn't turn out as it should have been for the Indian women who had never lost at the Asian Games ever since Women's Kabaddi was included as a sport in 2010. So what was it that went wrong for this team that doesn't know the face of failure so much? "When the match started we began well with a 1-6 lead," she said. "We took 5-6 advances right at the beginning. For example, I took the first two raids. As I touched the line twice and was coming back, the referee refused to give us the 2 points we earned and gave us just a single point for it."
, vented a dejected Payel. All throughout the match, the Iranian team did what it came to do, to show the world that India isn't the only country who is allowed to have a stronghold in Kabaddi and that Iran is here to linger for a long time. "It's partly because of the Referee's unwise decisions that we had to submit to a loss against Iran," feels the Captain of the team. But aside from the possibilities of an unfair treatment meted out towards the Indian's due to faulty refereeing, Payel admits other causes might have taken a toll on their performance. "There was already a problem brewing in the Federation with talks doing the rounds about the team having to face trial all over again. It was said that even if we come back with a gold or any medal we won't be getting any extra benefits and we'd have to face trials again,
" she reveals. "We got to know of it just as we were leaving for the Asian Games.", adds the Chandernagore-born girl. The Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI) has been in the news for quite some time ever since a petition was writ and filed by two former international players and Arjuna awardees Honnappa C Gowda and S Rajrathanam complaining that there was widespread malpractice in team selection for the Asian Games. The Delhi High Court had then refused to get involved as there wasn't enough time left for the Jakarta Games. To the team heading to Jakarta, this wasn't the news that they needed to burden them. With every game they went into, at the back of their minds this pressure was there. They knew they had to perform well and leave no room for error for their very position in the team was at stake.
"That pressure (to perform) was on us and subdued our willpower and confidence,"
 feels Chowdhury who is sure they could have done much better had this news not been floating in the air just as they were heading for the Asian Games. This was sheer irresponsibility on behalf of the AKFI to circulate potent news like this that is meant to take a toll on any player heading to a multi-sporting saga like the Asian Games. The issue about Iran being a strong power was not an unknown fact to the team. Yet things didn't quite go according to plan. "We have been winning in Kabaddi all along. There have been strong teams coming up for sure like Korea, Iran in the case of Men's Kabaddi. But whatever be the case, India is still the strongest team out there. I consider it the best team for now and always. In matches, there are wins and losses and it's a part of the game. ",
says Payel with a tinge of optimism ringing in her voice. For someone who has led the team ably and been handed down, it's first gold medal loss in the history of the Asian Games, Chowdhury sees the brighter side like a true sportsman should. "The loss is a part of the game and we have to deal with it. We'll have to improve and make up for it in the Kabaddi World Cup in 2019 and bring back learned.", she says already eyeing the future. In her first Asian Games outing, Payel Chowdhury is infinitely excited with the prospect of heading the Team and has a lot of plans designed for it who has learnt a lot from being a helmsman.
"This was my first Asian Games and I was very excited."
"I am thankful to the AKFI for selecting me to head the team." "I tried to take everyone together so that we all stayed at the same page and there was a great team spirit. The team also cooperated and, a bond was created." With eyes already set on next year, the Women's team won't let any odds get in their way and is trying to shrug off this shock by the Iranians which exposed their Achilles heels. "We are really sad about the loss. But what has happened, has happened. We won't brood over it. We have left it all in Jakarta. We'll work on ourselves and improve and restart and hope to bring back gold to India next time!"
, says Chowdhury with the confidence brimming in her voice. Chowdhury believes that Women's Kabaddi is on the rise and with its proper inclusion in the Pro Kabaddi League, the game will be received much better. Chowdhury recalls the incident of Women's Pro Kabaddi which was held in 2016 and how it didn't quite work out for them. "In 2016, we had a Women's Pro Challenge to check how the public liked it. But the issue was that we were given the Men's court to play on. Now that court is different from ours, it's bigger. Ours is smaller. So we had several difficulties adjusting to it. The height was a key issue for us. We are short and so it was difficult for us to reach the middle,"
remembers Payel. With this silver medal win, she is sure that Women's Kabaddi has a lot of hope for the future and will only get bigger with it's inclusion in the major PKL. "If the court is changed then I am sure Women's Kabaddi will be equally popular. It should be included in PKL. The discussions are on about including Women's Kabaddi. If the court is changed it can be equally popular! ", assures a Payel. However come September 15, the men's and women's team, on Delhi High Court's directives, will have to face off with a team of players who were denied the chance to be a part of the Asian Games-bound squads. Had that oppressing thought not crowded the minds of the players then perhaps the loss could have been avoided and the performance uplifted.
"For now the focus is on the 2019 Kabaddi World Cup. We must learn to overcome our deficiencies and build a stronger team with our eyes set on the World Cup. We need to learn from our mistakes and improve. We will practice more and improve and take our team back to the top position
like it was!" assures Payel before signing off.
Also read: Iran’s rise, on the Indian turf, brings exciting prospects for Kabaddi
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