Where is the Kabaddi Academy

Kabaddi - India's old folk sport is popular among women

Priyanka's look is aggressive. A smoothly leveled field on the edge of the village is their battle arena. "As soon as I step on the field, my friends are enemies," she says, unmoved. Priyanka is in her early twenties and a kabaddi national player.

Kabaddi, an ancient sport from South Asia, has been experiencing an incredible renaissance for some time, especially in India. Kabaddi is an unbelievable mixture of attack and defense for German eyes. Catch it, run away and dodge. Out of wrestling and catching. With a very special rule: if a kabaddi player is in the 30-second attack, he is not allowed to breathe. Instead, he has to say the word kabaddi audibly to the referee the whole time - without even taking a breath

"A Magical Sport"

"Priyanka's aggressiveness is unrivaled in India," enthuses her coach Krishan Kumar, who has dedicated his life to the old South Asian popular sport. "Kabaddi is a magical sport that is deeply anchored in our culture," assures Coach Kumar. "You don't have to be rich. You just need a piece of land and a pair of underpants."

Priyanka is a kabaddi national player

Priyanka moves barefoot on the field in breathable shorts and a breathable jersey, fakes an attack and turns around its own axis at lightning speed. The opponent's defense shifts synchronously because they have to avoid Priyanka's attacks together. The chain of defense has to hold hands.

"An attack lasts 30 seconds. I am not allowed to breathe for 30 seconds and have to keep saying Kabaddi. To save air, it sounds like Kabaj," explains Priyanka. As soon as the referee can no longer hear, he whistles off the attack. In her 30 seconds of breathless kabaddi attack, the 70 kilogram Priyanka pokes like an arrow into the opposing defensive chain in order to touch at least one opponent. Then she has to make it back to her own half in a flash without being touched. Only then are there points.

Mixture of wrestling, catching and sprinting

Back in your own half of the game, you immediately go back to your own defensive chain. Priyanka throws an opponent to the ground. It distorts the face. Injuries are part of it. It goes back and forth. Kabaddi is a quick mix of team wrestling, team catching and solo sprinting.

"Priyanka is a top athlete, I can handle her hard and train just like a man," explains her coach Krishan Kumar. Kabaddi used to be only played by men. But times are changing, even in conservative India. The women benefit from the fact that wealthy city Indians have rediscovered the old Indian village folk sport and are successfully marketing it internationally, including television contracts. Since this season there is also a professional league for women.

"When I'm on the field, my opponents are not boys or girls, but opponents," said Priyanka. The Indian kabaddi heroine with the brush haircut wants to continue playing for a few years and only then let her family marry, as is customary in India to this day.

  • Women's kabaddi, breathtaking!

    Three women's professional teams

    In April 2016, the best kabaddi players in India were selected and divided into three teams. Here in the capital New Delhi, the Firebirds play against the Ice Divas.

  • Women's kabaddi, breathtaking!

    Simple rules, but full of physical effort

    In the Kabbadi game, two teams with seven players each face each other. The aim of the game is to knock off as many players from the opposing team as possible in one go. To accomplish this task, a "robber" is sent out who has only one breath time for his turn. This is where the women's teams from India and Pakistan meet.

  • Women's kabaddi, breathtaking!

    Catch me if you can

    If the player manages to touch one or more opponents, he must get back to his own half of the game as quickly as possible. If he reaches the goal, his own team receives points equal to the number of players touched. With the attack of the robber both teams take turns.

  • Women's kabaddi, breathtaking!

    attack is the best defense

    The opposing team tries to stop the "robber" on the way back to their own zone, as can be seen in this picture. If the attacked team defends, they get a point themselves. The game lasts 40 minutes in total.

  • Women's kabaddi, breathtaking!

    Record attendance for women's league

    In the first two games of the women's kabaddi championship, around 38 million people watched the team sport on television. The TV broadcaster Star India stated that no other women's sport in India managed to inspire so many viewers. The Firebirds win the game in New Delhi.

  • Women's kabaddi, breathtaking!

    Kabaddi star

    In the meantime, Firebird's captain Mamtha Poojari is sometimes even recognized on the street. "Kabaddi now means women power," says Poojari, "in India most people think that it is only a sport for men. But thanks to the Women Kabaddi Challenge and the good performance of our teams, we can prove the opposite."

  • Women's kabaddi, breathtaking!

    Popular team sport in Asia

    Kabaddi is said to originally come from India and literally means "to hold your breath". Team wrestling is an official discipline of the Asian Games and is played in two halves of 20 minutes each. Here in front of the stadium in New Delhi, a few amateurs are playing kabaddi themselves and showing full physical activity.

  • Women's kabaddi, breathtaking!

    Patna Pirates versus Dabang Delhi

    Another highlight of the evening is the game between the two male teams. The tournament begins with the Indian national anthem and a lot of cheers from the fans. Last season the Patna Pirates (green jerseys) won, they are considered the favorites of the game.

  • Women's kabaddi, breathtaking!

    Sign language is sufficient

    The number two in the blue jersey is Meraj Sheykh. He is one of the most popular players from Delhi and is originally from Iran. Sheykh speaks neither English nor Hindi and communicates with the other players through sign language. It's not a problem for him or his team. At the end of the game, he is recognized as the best player.

  • Women's kabaddi, breathtaking!

    Kabaddi, Kabaddi, Kabaddi

    Team sports require full physical activity and some movements are reminiscent of sports such as rugby or football. With each move the attacker has to hold his breath and keep saying kabaddi to prove that he is not breathing again.

  • Women's kabaddi, breathtaking!

    Fans cheer for Dabang Delhi

    Shortly before the end, it is still a draw between the two teams. A head-to-head race. The voltage increases. In the end, the Patna Pirates win with "a good catch".

  • Women's kabaddi, breathtaking!

    Sport for everyone

    The Dabang Delhi team lost the game. But Captain Kashiling Adake knows why Kabaddi is so popular: "It's a sport for everyone. It doesn't need a complex infrastructure or a large playing field. All you need is a mat, two teams and the game can begin."

    Author: Cosima Gill / Yannik Kopp