Kabaddi: The best sport you’ve never heard of

When Sky Sports first began their coverage of Ireland’s national sports two years ago, the reaction was certainly mixed. People in Ireland either supported or lambasted the idea, while social media was full of Tweets and Facebook statuses from those across the Irish sea who had never witnessed hurling or football before.

Hurling, with it’s fast pace, incredible displays of hand-eye coordination and unique appearance certainly attracted more fans from the offset. People were Tweeting that it was like a mix of this, that and the other, and that they were instantly hooked.

It had never happened to me before, but it amazed me that people could be an avid viewer of a sport they had never heard of previously in such a short space of time.

I say it had never happened to me before, because it now has happened; and I am so glad it did. Late night browsing through the TV Guide when Family Guy at 11 o’clock just wasn’t going to hit the spot, I noticed something interesting starting on Sky Sports 2. Pro Kabaddi League 2016. I hadn’t seen any ads promoting it or even heard of it. Curiosity got the better of me and so I took a look.image

The next half an hour consisted of me trying to figure out what was actually happening in front of my eyes. The best way to describe Pro Kabaddi is to call it Professional Chasing. Overwhelmed by the spectacle of thousands of Indian people, filling huge indoor arenas, cheering on these men in multicoloured kits who stop at nothing to score points for their team, it took a second  viewing last Saturday evening to fully work out and understand the scoring system and how the game is supposed to be played.

Two teams of seven line up at either end of a court, 13 metres long by 10 metres wide. Players take turns to go into the other team’s half of the court and once across the halfway point, a player (now called a raider) must cross the “baulk line”, roughly another 3 metres into the opposition half, tag an opposition player, and escape back to their own half within 30 seconds.

It may not sound entertaining described in its most basic form, but the “by any means necessary” approach taken by the players is a sight to behold.

Games consist of two twenty minute halves and scoring is based on successful raids. If a raider is caught during his attempt, the points are awarded to the opposition.

Having only held their inaugural season in 2014, the Pro Kabaddi league is a very new spin on a sport with origins dating back to ancient India.  In its current format there are only 8 teams in the league, with some cracking names like the Jaipur Pink Panthers and the Telugu Titans. What surprised me the most was to see a variety of different nationalities playing on these teams.

At the moment, it appears Sky seem content to keep Pro Kabaddi in it’s late night time slots, but if you find yourself awake at around 11 o’clock and looking for something to watch, I absolutely recommend watching this sport as you will be both entertained and impressed.

If you don’t feel like committing yourself to an entire highlights show just yet, have a look at the video below which showcases the best raid’s from last season.

 

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