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Why we need a Women's Pro Kabaddi League

An Asian Games gold medallist complains that while PKL has made many male Kabaddi players household names, the women's game remains ignored. Could the women's IPL be followed by a women's PKL?

Why we need a Womens Pro Kabaddi League

As the floodlights are switched on, women Kabaddi players prepare for their last practice round at the MD College Ground, Mumbai. (PritishRaj/TheBridge)


Pritish Raj

Updated: 25 Dec 2022 5:38 AM GMT

It's been only a few days since Jaipur Pink Panthers lifted the title of Pro Kabaddi League Season 9, culminating in an epic season finale.

Pro Kabaddi has captured the hearts of sports fans across India quite well. But while some Indian and foreign players have become household names, some hopeful eyes are still waiting for a similar league for women's Kabaddi.

"It does feel bad at times. I have been playing senior Nationals since 2016 regularly and won an Asian Games gold in 2018 but people don't know us. People easily recognise the young players playing in PKL but nobody knows us," 2018 Asian Games medallist Sonali Shingate told The Bridge.

Women's Kabaddi League - A Financial Need

Before 2014, Kabaddi - and its practitioners - never saw the glamour and fame it does now. While PKL has changed the landscape for Men's Kabaddi, the women's game is barely visible, drawing breath in the shadow cast by PKL.

"A women's league is absolutely necessary as Women Kabaddi players have fewer options available to play. There are only Railways and Police teams as professional teams. With a professional league coming up, we will get to play regularly and the young girls will have the platform to show their skills and become financially stable," Sonali said.

Given the socio-economic background of the country, most sports in India are about earning a livelihood, a government job, running a family and surviving, .

When we bring women's sports into the conversation, the scope of livelihood and survival becomes narrower as the pressure of society plays a crucial role.

Talking about their financial well-being, Sonali explained, "Families will support the girls if they have some financial stability. I come from a middle-class background and it took me more than a couple of years to establish myself financially; only then could I focus 100% on my game, which resulted in my good performance at Asian Games."

Apeksha Takle, who represents Railways at the national level, said, "A professional league will help us massively with opportunities, especially for the young players. It will pull more girls towards kabaddi with the glamour associated with it and give them a good career option."

While these two players are now financially secure due to their association with corporate teams, many others still need help finding such opportunities.

Men's and Women's Kabaddi - The difference

The mat used in any professional Men's Kabaddi match is 13m x 10m (including the lobby), while the mat used in Women's Kabaddi is 11m x 8m (including the lobby).

When PKL hosted some exhibition women's games, it was hosted on the men's mat.

"One of the reasons the players couldn't showcase their skill was the mat size. If the women play on different mats, it affects their game and that is what happened mostly in those games," said coach Rajesh Padave.

"My students are the same for me, be it someone playing PKL or not playing it," said Rajesh, who has coached multiple PKL stars. "I want the women's league to start. People from the league have assured me that the women's league is in the pipeline," Rajesh said with hope.

Cricket and Kabaddi - The Parallels

Although there is no comparison of IPL and PKL in terms of numbers and commerce, PKL is the second-most watched professional league in India after IPL.

The biggest parallel between both leagues is that none has a full-fledged women's counterpart yet.

It took 15 years for the premier sports league in India to launch a women's equivalent; how soon can it be expected from Pro Kabaddi League?

Addressing the media before the final in Mumbai, PKL League commissioner Anupam Goswami said, "We are working towards it and something will come up soon. Our plans towards Women's Kabaddi is in pipeline for some time but it was the COVID outbreak which stopped us. We have resumed our work and will be back with something soon."

Sonali (first from right in bottom row) and Apeksha (fifth from right in bottom row) won the 67th Senior National Championships representing Railways. (SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT)

What If Women's PKL Arrives?

A women's professional league in Kabaddi will do the world of good for not just players, it will also open the avenue for coaches, analysts and personnel involved in running a league.

"It will be like a dream come true for me and the women's Kabaddi community as all we want to do is play and focus on the game. The game has completely changed after PKL as we have started taking care of ourselves more, focusing on nutrition and analysing the game more," quipped an excited Sonali.

"Bura lagta hai abhi nahi hai (It feels bad that it doesn't exist) but am super excited if something like this happens as it will mean a change in lifestyle, a better platform to showcase my abilities and definitely recognition," Apeksha said.

The PKL changed the global Kabaddi ecosystem and gave the sport a primetime television slot. With more countries playing the port, an Olympic berth is also a dream which can be fulfilled. As of now, the country's women kabaddi players are waiting in hope that a similar phenomenon will soon play out in their domain.

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