KARACHI : Kabaddi was the only sport at the 18th Asian Games that matched its previous record as Pakistan produced their worst-ever performance in the event’s history with only four bronze medals.
Kabaddi players were the first players to win a medal for the country, and that is something defender Wasim Sajjad feels proud of, but also believes that the country could have won the gold too, as he would have preferred an India-Pakistan final in Jakarta.
“We were hoping for that India and Pakistan final,” Wasim told The Express Tribune. “Pakistan has always won a medal at the Asian Games and at the end of the event, we were just happy to be able to at least open the account for the country on the medals table. That first medal matters. And it was important for me, because it is just me and Nasir Ali who must have had the most appearances at the Asian Games among kabaddi players; this was my fourth.”
Pakistan began their campaign thrashing Malaysia 62-17 in Group B, but then lost to Iran 36-20. They recorded two more wins against Indonesia (40-11) and Japan (25-14) and finally outplayed Nepal 38-20 to qualify for the semi-final with eight points in total, second to Iran with 10 who topped the Group B.
Wasim has a record of winning one silver and now three bronze medals at the Asian Games for Pakistan, and he feels that it is an honour for him to be a part of the national side, competing at the highest level since his first Games in 2006.
“After getting the first medal, the response from Pakistani contingent was great too, and that was a moment where they felt motivated, because none of the other sports had been able to give us that kind of result,” said the 35-year-old.
He is a man who understands what it feels like to be on the stand, a valuable asset for the country he played in Pro kabaddi League in India too with Patna Pirates in 2014 and 2015, while they also won silver after losing to India in the 2016 South Asian Games.
In the history of Asian Games kabaddi, Pakistan have taken eight medals, two silver and six bronze.
The two silver medals came in 1998 and 2006, while for the last three editions of the Games, Pakistan has consistently finished with a bronze medal. The kabaddi event was introduced at the Games in 1990.
While the sport originated in the sub-continent, countries like Iran and South Korea are dominating it in the Asian Games, also the two teams that went on to play the final.
Iran took the gold medal this time and Korea finished second, while Pakistan lost to Korea 27-24 in the semi-final and India were defeated by Iran 27-18 to take bronze medals.
“It is a myth that only India and Pakistan are good kabaddi-playing nations,” said Wasim. “We can’t deny the fact that other countries are doing better than us in many ways. Iran and Korea for example are very professional about their kabaddi. They take it more seriously than maybe we do. Even bangladesh are very professional in that matter, their requirements and the management is top-notch.”
Wasim will be looking to play the World Cup that is scheduled for the next year, while South Asian games are also supposed to take place in Nepal in 2019.
“We have the World Cup coming up, so there is a lot to look forward to,” said Wasim. “And I hope, like we had the Super Kabaddi League this year, for the first time, we can have it next year too, but hopefully the duration is longer, so it can serve better and that would increase our chances of doing better at international events too, as we’ll get more talent.”