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PKL will help me make Kabaddi popular in Sri Lanka: Raider Aslam Thambi

Aslam Thambi, the most featured Sri Lankan Kabaddi player in PKL talks about the struggles back home and his journey to PKL 9.

PKL will help me make Kabaddi popular in Sri Lanka: Raider Aslam Thambi

Aslam Thambi was the vice-captain of Sri Lanka in the Bangabandhu Cup 2021.


Pritish Raj

Updated: 12 Dec 2022 12:28 PM GMT

In sports, Sri Lanka is remembered for the classy left-handed batters and Muttiah Muralitharan's 800 wickets. But hoping to make Kabaddi popular in the island nation via the Pro Kabaddi League is Aslam Thambi.

In an exclusive interaction with The Bridge, Aslam Thambi said, "Coming to India and watching PKL is nothing short of a dream. Most importantly, the experience here will help me promote and teach the sport better in my country. Every day here is a great match to watch and learn."

"I hope to go back and tell people that Kabaddi is something where you can build a career. All the learnings I am gathering from India will help me in creating the culture and making Kabaddi a more recognized sport in Sri Lanka," the tall raider said.

Struggles of Kabaddi Player in Sri Lanka

Primarily known for their exploits in cricket, being an International Kabaddi player is tougher than being a normal club cricketer for Aslam in his country.

"I have been playing in Sri Lanka for the past 9 years but Kabaddi is not popular in my country when compared to India. We don't have big media houses or fans coming to support us," explained Aslam.

In countries where the sport of Kabaddi is at a nascent stage, the biggest problem is the problem of exposure for these players. Being a contact sport that demands physical rigour, without regular matches, Kabaddi feels like a video game.

"We lack matches in our country. There are no local tournaments, no matches, and nothing substantial. We have 4-5 games only while in India even at the local level every day there is a game. We have to rely on international tours or events like the Pro Kabaddi League," Aslam explained the problems of Kabaddi in Sri Lanka.

"The kids play on the grass at the school level. The national level has the mat but from now on we are looking to bring the mat at the grassroots level also. The Federation is also quite helpful to us. I hope more things will change with me featuring in PKL," the Sri Lankan vice-captain chuckled.

Journey to Pro Kabaddi League

Being an athlete with good height, Aslam had multiple avenues in the world of sports, but he decided to go with Kabaddi just for his love of winning and hunger to be the best. He guided Lankan Lions to the bronze medal at the 2016 Asian Junior Kabaddi Championship in Iran, and Aslam gained notoriety on the international stage.

"I started from school only. Started winning at the school level, and federation level and the hunger to win kept me close to this game. After I played at the Junior Asian Championships, I became sure that I want to take this sport up seriously," said the raider.

Aslam Thambi has scored 6 points coming four times from the bench for Bengal Warriors in PKL Season 9.

Aslam Thambi is not the first to play in the PKL from Sri Lanka. Milinda Chathuranga and Anwar Baba have played before him, but Aslam has featured the most coming in from the bench four times in different games in PKL 2022.

Picked by the current Bengal Warriors coach K Basakaran who coached the Sri Lankan side for seven months, Aslam expressed his gratitude to the coach for picking him up.

"K Basakaran has coached us for 7 months. He would train us regularly. His presence there helped us a lot. He coached the Sri Lankan national team during the Bangabandhu Cup 2021," said Aslam.

Experience in PKL 2022

PKL 9 might be his first stint, but Aslam has been a Kabaddi fan for a long and has been following for a long time. Aslam said about PKL, "I used to watch Pro Kabaddi on TV. It has a big fan following in Sri Lanka. I have been watching Pro Kabaddi League since 2014 and Anup Kumar was my favourite. I have watched every game of his. Maninder Singh is my current favourite now."

For someone who struggles to get regular Kabaddi matches in his country, PKL has been a goldmine for Thambi in terms of experience. He is learning daily and enjoying his time with his teammates despite the language barrier.

"Language has been a barrier but our coach speaks Tamil and I have few friends in the team. I have a good bond with these people and they are easy to get along with. I am getting to learn so much from these people and I hope to continue learning," concluded Aslam Thambi.

We have witnessed Kabaddi make its way back to the cricket-loving nation of India and by featuring regularly in PKL, Aslam Thambi hopes to help Kabaddi make a space in yet another cricketing heartland.

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