Indian actor and team owner Abhishek Bachchan hopes the Kabaddi World Cup can help pave the way for the sport’s inclusion at the Olympics.
England take on host nation and red-hot favourites India in their final Kabaddi World Cup Group A match in Ahmedabad on Tuesday, and you can watch highlights of the clash on Sportsclubsociety 2 from 10.30pm.
Sports climbing, surfing and baseball/softball are among the events making their Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, with new sports for the 2024 Games to be decided after the winning host city is announced next September.
Interest in the Kabaddi World Cup has grown since the 2014-launch of the Pro Kabaddi League. Bachchan owns Pro Kabaddi team Jaipur Pink Panthers and admits the global appetite for the sport has surpassed his own expectations.
“Kabaddi was my first foray into sport. I wanted be part of the first professional league and help take the game to a wider audience,” Bachchan told Sportsclubsociety.
“We aimed for an aggressive target of 50m television viewers in the first season and we ended up with 435m. That made kabaddi the second most-watched sports event in India after the Indian Premier League cricket and more nations play kabaddi than cricket.
“There are 36 official kabaddi federations across the world. It’s huge and the quest is to try and make it into an Olympic sport.
“The International Olympic Committee’s criterion for an Olympic sport is that it’s played in a minimum of 55 nations across five continents. But a World Cup – with the likes of England, Australia, Argentina and Kenya all coming to India to play in it – is definitely a step in the right direction.”
Kabaddi is played by men and women across Britain with the women’s team traditionally dominated by British Army personnel after they were introduced to the sport by Punjab-born ex-player Ashok Das in 2005.
“I would describe kabaddi as a mixture between Red Rover and Tag even though it is 4000-year-old indigenous Indian sport and has its origins in Hindu mythology,” added Bachchan.
“It started off as a war game and has been adapted down the line. It really is thrilling. It’s a greatly exciting sport to watch.”
You can watch Premier League football, plus England’s tour of Bangladesh and the US Grand Prix on Sportsclubsociety. Upgrade now and enjoy six months at half price!