The 23rd of August 2018 will be entered into the history books as the date on which one of Kabaddi’s biggest moments unfurled, when a dominant Iran men’s team, led by Fazel Athrachali outclassed the Men in Blue 27-18 in a tense semi-final clash of the 2018 Asian Games, which not only opened up a new chapter in the kabaddi storybook but also ended a seven-year-long reign at the top for the Indian team.
Less than a day later, the women’s team took a leaf out of the men’s book as they put in an inspiring performance, albeit this time in the finals to win 27-24 and stamp their authority on the rest of the kabaddi fraternity.
After all, the Indian team came into the tournament stacked with talent and if one team was to present the Men in Blue with a stiff challenge, it was the team from Iran, comprised of some of the best picks from the Pro Kabaddi League such as Fazel Atrachali, Abozar Mighani, Mohammad Maghsoudlou etc.
After seven gold medals and 18 years at the top of the pack, the mighty Indian men’s setup came crashing down as the Iranians broke into a celebratory dance while the women’s team prevented a hat-trick of title wins for the Indian eves, sending in a big statement that India was no longer the ‘invincible’ superpower in kabaddi.
Iran’s rise, on the Indian turf
When one moves around in the streets of various cities in India during the Pro Kabaddi League, one can spot young kids trying their hand at the game. On defense, some of them go in for the vicious tackles and holds while the rest of the defense envelopes the raider.
At the end of the game, when the youngster is approached and quizzed about his role model, he is quick to answer, ‘Fazel Athrachali’. The Iranian left corner, instrumental in his team’s monumental victory against India at the Asian Games is already a household figure for his exploits in the Pro Kabaddi League.
From an unknown entity in the inaugural season with U Mumba, life has come a full circle for Fazel, who will yet again be representing his first ever franchise but this time with an additional tag of being the only foreign player to earn a fat sum of 1 crore rupees from the auctions.
However, the Iranians did earn their name from playing in India, and more so, in the Pro Kabaddi League. While Iran’s introduction into Kabaddi can be credited to the PKL, the country’s continual growth along with India can only add to the manifested growth in the future.
Indian flavor in the Iran camp!
At the end of Iran’s comprehensive win, both in the men’s and women’s categories, social media went crazy as it had come to light that the Iran women’s team coach, who herself charted and planted the demolition job is an Indian.
The Indian eves did do well to keep themselves in the game with some cunning raiding and crisp tackles, but in the end, the credit went to Iran and in turn, their coach.
Shunning the ‘invincibles’ tag
Iran’s win might just be a good win but if one was to go in depth, to analyze the impact of India’s loss on the day, it can be well said that the victory by itself serve as a statement to other teams that India is not invincible.
While it is a tough task to beat the Men in Blue, the Iranians have gone on to show that with a clever approach, a never-say-die attitude and a bonding team, anything can happen.
A role model for the future
While it is known that most players from Iran and for that matter of fact India as well are big products of the Pro Kabaddi League, a platform that has excited people from all over the globe to take up the sport.
With India ruling the roost for seven editions of the Asian Games, Iran’s win throws open the doors and will build the required confidence in the teams to believe that they can win against the Blue giants.