Former AFL and rugby players to feature in Kabaddi WC

After a long stint as a professional in Australian Rules Football (AFL) , the Perth-born Campbell Brown became an AFL commentator for three years before winning a place in the Australian national kabaddi team as captain. At 33, Campbell will play, in what would be amazingly his first competitive kabaddi match and that too against the seven times Asian Games champion India on Saturday.

Captains of the various teams participating in the Kabaddi World Cup.   -  Vijay Soneji

Australian Campbell Brown is delighted that he will soon get a chance to show off his newly acquired kabaddi skills in the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup (KWC) that will start here on Friday. The 12-nation competition will be held at the `The Arena,’ a state-of-the art sports facility built by TransStadia at Maninagar, the former assembly constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

After a long stint as a professional with Hawthorn in Australian Rules Football (AFL) and for a short period with Gold Coast, the Perth-born Campbell became an AFL commentator for three years before winning a place in the Australian national kabaddi team as captain. At 33, Campbell will play, in what would be his first competitive kabaddi match and that too against the seven times Asian Games champion India on Saturday.

Coached by Navneet Gautam, two-time Asian Games gold medal winner and captain of the Jaipur Pink Panthers in the inaugural Pro-Kabaddi league and Telugu Titans coach Lingampally Srinivas Reddy, the Austraian combination that took up to the sport only four weeks ago hopes to make an impact here and thereby hope to spread the game in Australia.

When asked if the Australians know of the existence of a national kabaddi team and if he or the team has played a match, Campbell was quick to say: "Now the Australians will come to know of the national kabaddi team. None...neither me nor the team has a played a match against any team in the world. We have played among ourselves. The team has many former AFL professionals. We have been training really hard for a month," said Campbell at the official inauguration of the 2016 KWC here on Thursday.

Another foreigner who is looking forward to learn more about the Indian sport is Argentina’s Sebastian Desoclo Elias. "Football is the most important sport in my country. It’s played by children and only a few play kabaddi. There are three clubs in Argentina and we played six matches in a single day to get the team selected. Players from nearby cities come and play at my club in Buenos Aires. The name of my club is `Jalaras’ meaning snake. This World Cup is a first major tournament for the entire team and it will promote the sport in my country," said Desoclo Elias.

Poland’s Michal Spiczko said interest for kabaddi is getting better in his country. "More people play and watch the sport every weekend. We have players from across the country, but they have to travel a lot to come to Warsaw for practice sessions. The kabaddi players are former American soccer and rugby players. We practice wrestling too because Manjit Chillar was a wrestler. We can take some skills from wrestling to kabaddi. Manjit was my captain at Bengaluru Bulls."

So while the 2016 KWC, to be played for a fortnight here, will see the likes of Campbell Desoclo Elias, Spiczko, and others like England’s Someshwar Kalia, Kenya’s David S. Mosambayl, Thailand’s Tim Ponchoo and American Troy Bacon in action, the Indian team which has not lost a World Cup match, will strive hard to sustain the record. It faces a major threat though in the form of Iran.

India will take on South Korea in the opening match on Friday.