The Asian Games are slated to be held in Hangzhou, China, from September 23 to October 8, 2023. Of the 28 entries, 17 have come for the men’s event and 11 are for the women’s event. “Yes, it’s an encouraging sign,” Asian Kabaddi Federation’s (AKF) secretary general Mohammad Sarwar said on Monday.
“We want to develop kabaddi in the whole of Asia. We have not included any qualification event for the Asian Games. It is yet to be seen how many nations show interest in competing in the Asian Games and how many withdraw their entries. But the upward trend in entries is encouraging,” said Sarwar, who is also the secretary general of the Pakistan Kabaddi Federation (PKF).
Interested nations can send their entries by March 2023, Sarwar said. In the last Asian Games held in Indonesia in 2018, 11 nations competed in the men’s event while nine flexed their muscles in the women’s event.
Until a few years ago, India and Pakistan ruled kabaddi but now Iran and South Korea have also emerged as strong competitors by investing heavily in these disciplines. In the 2018 Asian Games men’s event, Iran won gold while South Korea finished with silver. Pakistan and India had to be content with bronze medals.
Iran won the women’s event after beating India in the final. Chinese Taipei and Thailand finished with bronze medals. Sarwar said PKF wants to build a strong team for the Asiad. “There is just one year to go. We got some time after Asian Games were postponed for a year and we want to fully exploit this opportunity,” he said.
“We would like to hold at least two national events in which we will pick the lot. We will give it an international tour and then a camp will be held. It will be followed by an international series either at home or abroad. It will be followed by another national championship and then after a slight break, the camp will be resumed. We want to see our final lot in top shape by July 2023,” said Sarwar, also a former Pakistan captain.
He said that hopefully, the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) would arrange a camp soon for the Asiad. Sarwar said that Asian Games have now turned very competitive but Pakistan has a good chance and will deliver its best in the quadrennial event.
He said that the mainstream boys are in top practice as an inter-departmental event is in progress and at the divisional level an event is in the pipeline. Sarwar said that besides this around 20 of Pakistan’s top players are in Europe these days. “Around 20 top boys are in various countries in Europe these days, playing leagues. They will return later this month,” he said.
Sarwar said that the PKF has signed a four-year agreement with a group for the Kabaddi league. Hopefully, the event will be held later this year, he added. Sarwar said that to popularise kabaddi in Sindh and Balochistan, boys from these two provinces will also be included in the league.
Sarwar said that both these provinces have some talent and the federation wants to provide opportunities to their boys at the top level. He said that in the next week the PKF General Council meeting will be convened in which both national and international events will be discussed and major decisions will be taken,” Sarwar said.