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Dhaka Tribune

Kabaddi, Kabaddi - let the Bengal roar become a global chant

Bangladesh hope to rekindle past glories in Kabaddi with latest title win

Update : 26 Mar 2022, 12:10 AM

Let us imagine an alternative history! 

A powerful Bengali emperor, say one of Sens or Pals, of the middle age was aroused to become ruler of the whole world and start his naval expedition to conquer whole Europe!

As a result, he subjugated the whole continent, created a global rule and set the culture and norms for the next 500 years.

And let us also free our imagination to envisage a globalization like current era, and think what would be the global sport that would be adored by most people?

It would be Kabaddi. 

As sports sociologists and anthropologists suggest, becoming a popular sport is not an inherent phenomenon or merely for the characteristic of a certain sport, but complex impact of history, politics, business and many other forces that shape the public imagination and aspiration for certain kind of sports.

In that sense, through a wild imagination one may easily think envisaging Kabaddi star Tuhin Tarafdar becoming a poster boy of a parallel universe while people hardly know anybody from football or cricket, two fringe sports in the above-mentioned universe. 

Let us go back to reality just the way I had to by dismantling my wild imagination with the immense scream of hundreds of people around me at Shaheed Noor Hossain Volleyball Stadium Thursday when Bangladesh were playing the final of the Bangabandhu Cup International Kabaddi against Kenya. 

The atmosphere was surreal as the full-house crowd was cheering for every point the hosts were acquiring and amid the festive atmosphere the men in red and green retained their title winning a cliffhanger by 34-31. 

The ambience was incredible, as if an exciting rural atmosphere is recreated in modern setup.

Players were wearing modern outfits, the arena is a state-of-the-art playing mat instead of a muddy or sandy ground in a Bengal village, big screens here and there and many placards of the sponsors may remind one that they are observing a game in modern day but the emotion, one must feel, was eternal, like our predecessors used to have while enjoying a fascinating Kabaddi match for eons. 

Or perhaps, it was our trait from our hunter-gatherer past, when we used to get sheer joy while hunting a scalp or avoiding danger.

Surely, these games are shaped with our most basic instincts, the game that does not even need a mere ball or even a stick. 

The great Dutch historian and one of the founders of modern cultural history, Johan Huizinga termed human being as Homo Ludens, one whose basic instinct is to play, and gain sheer joy from their physical activities.

And he surely meant the rudimentary forms of play like Kabaddi or many games around the globe that could be easily arranged without much fuss of material requirements. 

And talking about the importance of play, French socialist Roger Caillois famously said “Tell me what you play and I’ll tell you who you are,” and amazingly, after the Kabaddi final, Abdur Rahman, a salesman in an electronic shop adjacent to the stadium said with smile and joy, “We Bengalis love to see one body tumbling over the other and a bunch of people catching an invader or even the heroics of an escape after a successful raid. No wonder, Kabaddi is our national sport. The enjoyment I got during the last one hour was amazing, it gave me sheer pleasure and even invoked my sweet childhood memories. Kabaddi is ours; we belong to Kabaddi.”

It is amazing to see how Rahman almost echoed Callois, but it is not surprising.

Despite the wave of globalization, people understand the importance of the local heritage and pride of uplifting it.

Japanese people savor Sumo wrestling with religion like reverence, Canadians know the importance of Ice hockey and many other countries including those from Latin America are emphasizing local sports that have been part of legacy and heritage. 

Fortunately for us, Kabaddi is getting international recognition.

The rural Bengal sports is becoming a regular feature in major games and it even creates the opportunity to earn global fame.

The game is extremely inexpensive, does not need any sort of special arrangement and the juxtaposition of ancient wisdom with modern technique may help people even from the poorest background thrive. 

The final itself was a great example, Kenyan players were well built with long limbs that is extremely advantageous for the game, but Tuhin and his boys overcame their challenge to showcase their skill and intelligence, the epitome of this physical game. 

However, the real-life picture is bleak.

Bangladesh for the first time in 28 years finished without a medal at Kabaddi in Asian Games.

With the rise of countries like Iran and Korea, Bangladesh were relegated to a non-medal team both in men’s and women’s category. 

But two consecutive successful international tournaments once again raised hope. 

“We are thrilled and planning to regain medal in Asian Games,” said Abdul Mannan, an organizer of the Kabaddi Federation.

“We have currently 80 professional players and we have prepared 80 youth level players through our grassroot campaigns. But we need sponsors. Kabaddi players come from poor background. They need support. And with support they may bring glory,” said Mannan, who also said they are dreaming to arrange a mega tournament like Indian Pro-Kabaddi League.

He believes with six teams they may arrange an exciting tournament akin to Bangladesh Premier League.

Today will be the 51st Independence Day of Bangladesh, a country proud of its legacy and eager for global achievements.

Obviously only nurturing national pride won’t be a good idea in globalized world and it is not at all pragmatic leaving all other established sports for the sake of Kabaddi.

But surely, the vibrant, proud nation may make its mark in global world by becoming the supreme nation in their national sport.

Even in the last tournament teams like England showed their interest, and as historians and experts believe the tide can be reversed.

It is very much possible to make Kabaddi a global phenomena and Bangladesh leading the way.

The myriad of sponsors and immense interest from crowd showed it is very much possible to walk through that avenue.

The resolution can be made in the crucial juncture of the country’s progress. 

Let Kabaddi, Kabaddi, Kabaddi, the eternal roar of rural Bengal become a happy global chant.

The nation which gained its freedom through an incredible fight, can afford to dream audaciously on its Independence Day.


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