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Kabaddi community hopes to build on first int'l medal

When Anbu Navin N. Annadurai first got into kabaddi in 2018, he and his teammates encountered many challenges such as securing venues for practice and a lack of training equipment.

But they made do with the circumstances, training on hard surfaces when they did not have enough proper mats. The absence of cushioning often resulted in injuries and abrasions, and stopped them from practising at full intensity.

They were also forced to settle for any available spaces to train, often booking multi-purpose halls designed for basketball or badminton. Sometimes, they even trained in open fields or common outdoor spaces.

But there have been significant improvements since then, noted Annadurai, with players now having access to better training facilities at Kranji Recreational Centre, which allowed them to develop their skills more effectively.

The national men’s team started competing internationally in 2023 and on June 16, won their first medal on the international stage after securing a bronze at the Koni Badung Sports Tourism 2024 Indonesia Open International Kabaddi Championships.

The 21-year-old said: “It validated our hard work and dedication throughout our journey in kabaddi.

“For the team, this accomplishment serves as a powerful motivator, boosting morale and highlights our potential on the international stage, inspiring us to set higher goals for future competitions.

“It also signifies a milestone in our collective effort to promote kabaddi and attract more enthusiasts to the sport.”

There were three formats contested at the tournament in Bali: National style (seven-a-side), super five (five-a-side) and three star (three-a-side).

At the Lotring Indoor Stadium, Annadurai captained the super five team that progressed to the semi-finals after a 38-20 loss to Indonesia and 29-24 victory over Timor-Leste.

In the semi-finals, they were defeated 40-25 by the Indonesian Under-22 side, earning them the bronze.

Kabaddi Association (Central SG) deputy chairman Southri Kumaravadivel acknowledged that Singapore is still relatively new in the regional kabaddi scene, compared to countries like Thailand and Malaysia who have a long history in the sport.

But he said that the association, which was officially founded in 2019, has been collaborating with their regional counterparts to improve their standards.

Kumaravadivel said: “Over the past five years, we have been diligently building our infrastructure and training hard.

“This medal is a tremendous boost for the association, encouraging us to double our efforts in promoting kabaddi and nurturing more talents.

“It is also a recognition of the hard work and dedication of every individual involved.”

Originating from India, kabaddi is a contact sport involving two teams.

The objective of the game is for a single player on offence – known as a raider – to run into the opposing team’s half of the court, touch as many of their players as possible to score points and return to their own half of the court in 30 seconds.

The raider is required to carry out each raid in a single breath while repeatedly chanting the word “kabaddi”, as the defending team try to capture the raider with various wrestling-style trips, traps and tackles to score a point.

Kabaddi has been a medal sport at the Asian Games since 1990, but has never been on the SEA Games’ roster.

It was not included in the preliminary list of 40 sports that was recently released by 2025 SEA Games hosts Thailand, but Kumaravadivel shared that there are ongoing efforts to get the game included at the biennial event, highlighting that it would provide more opportunities for kabaddi athletes to represent their nations.

The team are also looking to take part in the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games scheduled for November in Thailand.

Annadurai, who just completed his national service and will begin his university education soon, has also noticed a change in perception towards the sport, observing that this niche sport has grown in appeal and attracted athletes from other sports such as boxing and hockey.

In fact, he was part of the floorball and cricket co-curricular activities in secondary school and junior college and played football leisurely, but was ultimately drawn to kabaddi due to the dynamic nature of the game.

He said: “Overall, kabaddi is steadily gaining recognition and popularity in Singapore, and I’m optimistic about its continued growth and development in the coming years.”