KARACHI: Pakistan's three-time Asian Games medallist Wasim Sajjad believes the Triangular Kabaddi series with India, Iran and Pakistan can open doors for professional players to enter the Pro Kabaddi League.
While 2019 will look to be an active year for kabaddi, Pakistan is kicking things off by hosting a triangular international kabaddi series as Iran and India have arrived in Lahore.
The Indian squad reached Pakistan through Wahgah border on January 3, whereas Iran came on January 1. Both teams will compete with Pakistan with a traditional circle style of kabaddi.
The Pakistan Kabaddi Federation (PKF) is also holding the national championship with 15 teams, including the provincial sides and departmental squads and after skimming the best talent from the national event, the team will be made for the triangular series.
The bigger Pakistani names like Wasim Sajjad and Muhammad Nasir will be missing the national championship however, as they play Asian style kabaddi, while circle style is more traditional format that is popular locally in India and Pakistan.
Sajjad feels that although the top players are not participating because of the format of the triangular series, the event can be an opportunity to show that India and Pakistan has more in common than meets the eye.
He added that the event will send a message to the global community that Pakistan is a welcoming place.
He also hoped that the event will be able to convince the Indian government to see that Pakistanis can play in the Indian Professional Kabaddi League.
"We played in the professional kabaddi league in India, but now we can't because of the visa issues, but with this event I'm hoping that the governments would see that we can play in both countries," Sajjad told The Express Tribune. "We've played in India but then the visa becomes an issue, the political climate becomes a hindrance, but the love we get in India is touching. And I hope the same the visiting Indian team will get the same love here too. But it is high time that we should be able to play in Pro Kabaddi League in India as well."
Sajjad added that Iran is also a contender in kabaddi where the game is growing fast, but in circle style they may struggle.
Many Pakistani players have played in Iran kabaddi leagues too; however, Sajjad said that Indian league is the most professional.
He said that the other bigger event of the year will be the Kabaddi World Cup in Malaysia, most likely to take place in April, and that is his aim for 2019, to win the world title.
Echoing the sentiment, the PKF secretary Muhammad Sarwar said that the event is an attempt to open the doors to our neighbours and an attempt to get out of isolation.
"It is a circle style event and we have the top three teams with us, with India, Pakistan and Iran, the aim is to get the traditional, indigenous sport a limelight," Sarwar told The Expres Tribune.
"We've got the help from the Punjab government and the Sports Board. They have been very supportive in our aim that we need to host an international event here. We are hoping that this will not only give our younger players exposure, but also make Pakistan more attractive for the foreign teams to come. We have been looking to host an international event for the last few months and finally it is happening."
This is the first time that Indian kabaddi team is coming to Pakistan after 2016.
While Iran are weaker in circle style, they are the Asian Games Champions and they will be gaining from the tour.
The national championship is taking place in Faisalabad, while international kabaddi matches for the series will be played in Sargodha, Sahiwal, and Bahawalpur while the event will conclude in Lahore on January 14.
According to Sarwar, the venues were chosen in terms of popularity of circle style kabaddi.
"We will be selecting the best team to compete," said Sarwar as the international series will start on January 8. "The young players will shine."
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