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Kabaddi

"Kabaddi…Kabaddi…Kabaddi…" How did this Indian sport land in Taiwan?

The call to make Kabaddi an Olympic Sport is growing and Taiwan is headlining a continuous expansion in interest and investment in the sport across the country.

Kabaddi…Kabaddi…Kabaddi… How did this Indian sport land in Taiwan?
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The author with Huang-Chung jeng
By

Manoj Kumar Panigrahi

Updated: 17 Nov 2021 3:02 PM GMT

Kabaddi is a "contact sport" requiring players to hold hands, raid the opponent's side, and defend their side. This sport does not require any bats, balls, or any other particular types of equipment. Traditionally it was played on the soil, and however, with evolution, internationally, it is played on a mat now. The whole game occurs in a 10 by 13 meters area (8 by 12 meters in the case of women). Each team has seven players and takes turns to raid the opponent's side and defend their side.

My friends, I have a special request at first. Before you all read the whole article, can you try speaking "Kabaddi…Kabaddi…Kabaddi…" at a stretch for at least a minute? I will leave you to be the judge of yourself and your friends on how long you did it for.

This article will be part of a series about the development of the Kabaddi game in Taiwan. The whole series of "Kabaddi" articles will feature coaches and players as well.

Origin of Kabaddi

For those who do not know, Kabaddi originated in India, and it is popular in South Asia and among the South Asian diaspora around the world. Over the years, Kabaddi has found its fans in Korea, Japan, and the Southeast Asian countries. The word "Kabaddi" originates from the Tamil language from the word "Kai-pidi," which means "let us hold hands." It is also speculated that it is more than four thousand years old, developed by Buddhist warriors learning self-defense.

Kabaddi is a "contact sport" requiring players to hold hands, raid the opponent's side, and defend their side. This sport does not require any bats, balls, or any other particular types of equipment. Traditionally it was played on the soil, and however, with evolution, internationally, it is played on a mat now. The whole game occurs in a 10 by 13 meters area (8 by 12 meters in the case of women). Each team has seven players and takes turns to raid the opponent's side and defend their side.

The game lasts for 40 minutes. In the recently concluded Olympics 2020 Tokyo, it is incredible to see both Indian and Taiwanese athletes securing the highest medal tally for their respective countries. Sports, besides teaching us discipline, also teaches how to respect each other beyond nationalities. One of the finest examples that could be seen from the Olympics is when Taiwan's badminton player Tai Tzu Ying shared a story on how India's P.V. Sindhu comforted her when she lost her game.

To understand the development of the Kabaddi game, I tried digging into the story of how it came to Taiwan, who was responsible for it, and many such questions. This could not have been possible without Tai Tzu Ying's social media post. It reminded me of a flash moment which I saw of the Kabaddi game where the female team of Taiwan won the bronze at the 2018 Asian games held in Indonesia. It is always emotional to see how the two countries form a special bonding through sports.

Immediately I swung into action, and with the help of the Taiwan office (Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India) in New Delhi, I found out that Taiwan has its own Kabaddi Federation. Upon contacting the office, the President of the Kabaddi Federation, Mr. Huang Chung-jeng, was more than willing to discuss it. To help me with the interpretation, I sought help from my friend for help. She runs her page about Indonesia. You can follow her excellent work here- @apakabar_indo.

Here is the interview transcript:

How and when the idea of Kabaddi came to Taiwan?

It was from 2006 when I was vice president of the Chinese Taipei Athletes Association. I visited Doha, Qatar, to participate in the Asian Games held on December 1-15, 2006. I saw Sepaktakraw and Kabaddi there, and I realized that Taiwan does not have these two games. Upon return, I brought the idea of these two games to Taiwan and approached the government seeking permission and to set up an agency for the game.

When did you take the position as the Chairman of Kabaddi Federation?

It was on January 26, 2008, when the Kabaddi Federation started. The organization's head could be in position for eight years in usual cases, until the Taiwanese government passed the National Sports Law in 2017. The new law changes the tenure of the Chairman after March 31, 2018. As a result, I have led the Federation for quite a while.




How did you start to promote this game?

At first, I approached the heads of the Asian and International Federation of Kabaddi, who were both Indians. They responded positively when I asked whether Taiwan could participate as well.

Once our organization participated in the international games, I tried to establish a Kabaddi organization in every district. There is sports administration in every district, and I have tried to include Kabaddi in every sports organization.

On the other hand, I have tried to promote the game in every school from Junior High to University. By conducting exhibition matches by players in front of the students to attract them more towards it.


What sort of challenges do you face while promoting Kabaddi?

As long as we have been promoting Kabaddi for the past 10-12 years, it is still new in Taiwan. We do not have enough coaches and players, and we do not have a club approach like other countries. We promote it from the school level. As far as we know, many Physical Education teachers have already been promoting other sports; some of them are reluctant to train in Kabaddi when asked to. As I mentioned earlier, it is still a very new sport to Taiwanese.

How is the reaction of Taiwanese to the game over the years?

First, they are very curious as they have never seen it. Kabaddi is still an unknown sport here, and however, it is somehow similar to our local game called eagle catching the chicken. The Federation has been trying to conduct more contests to attract and cultivate more Taiwanese audiences.

Where are these Kabaddi games played?

There are two fixed games in Taiwan annually. One is the Taiwanese Kabaddi Championships, and the other is the President Cup Championships held for distinguished student players as a way to gain higher education. There is also the National Games held once every two years. As these attract most Taiwanese, we try to conduct games there.



How did you manage to get a coach?

Every year we conduct four to five classes for the training of coaches in Taiwan. We used to send Taiwanese players to India for training since it helped build our talent pool.

What government support do you receive besides monetary support?

Besides money, the government supports us in holding international kabaddi games and inviting teams from other countries.

Where do you think you can increase people's interest in Kabaddi in Taiwan?

The first thing is to promote this game faster. We plan to set up the organization in every district and let more schools join this game. Through education, I believe targeting the students at a younger age is what we can do. We also hope to increase the interest in Kabaddi among the Physical Education teachers.




Have any Taiwanese Corporations shown an interest in supporting the Kabaddi team?

Although we have tried to set up committees in every district, most corporations are not familiar with Kabaddi. We tried to introduce Kabaddi to business sectors in hope of gaining their support, however there are still remaining challenges.

Last but not least, any message to Indians in Taiwan who share the passion for Kabaddi?

I hope Indians in Taiwan can make one team and participate in local games conducted in Taiwan as a club. It will help in promoting the game among the diaspora here.


It will not be wrong to say that Mr. Huang is the "Father of Kabaddi" in Taiwan. After speaking with Mr. Huang, it was an eye-opener to me in multiple aspects, and I got introduced to another aspect of the India-Taiwan partnership. In the following piece, I will introduce two brothers who have been playing Kabaddi for more than ten years now and have been an essential inspiration to the budding Kabaddi players.


(The aforementioned article is an interview with the President of the Taiwanese Kabaddi Federation taken by Mr. Manoj Kumar Panigrahi. It has been taken from the website Crossing (https://crossing.cw.com.tw/article/15412) with due consent and permission from the website editor and author concerned.






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