MUMBAI: After various leagues around cricket, hockey, badminton, football and tennis, it was time for Kabbadi to make a foray. Not missing the opportunity to bring back the rustic Indian sport to the limelight, Mashal Sports and the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) launched the Pro Kabaddi League at the National Sports Club of India today.
The sport has progressed from being a loved Indian game to the international platform. The League aims to extend its reach further to the international arena by bringing Indian and international players along with acclaimed Indian personalities and sports authorities on the same platform.
The official website www.prokabaddi.com will be a repository of information on all things related to Pro Kabaddi as well as Kabaddi in general while Star Sports will be the official broadcast partner for the League, the matches of which will be held on a 'home and away' format with daily, LIVE, prime-time coverage.
Star India COO Sanjay Gupta said: “Our association with Kabaddi is in line with our stated objective of transforming the sports landscape and enabling the growth of a multi-sport culture in India. Pro Kabaddi will build an ecosystem that can potentially take this game to the next level. We plan to offer an immersive and engaging experience for the Kabaddi viewers.”
Mashal Sports co-promoter Anand Mahindra, who will play a key role in taking Kabaddi to another level, tweeted: “Had asked you about supporting indigenous sport, specifically Kabaddi. Well proud to be a co-promoter of #ProKabaddi league we launched today.”
During the launch of the league, he also stated: “A vibrant, professional sports league can bring about a transformational change for the sport and its players. Pro Kabaddi is our attempt at bringing this change to our very own, extremely popular sport of Kabaddi. The modern, international, competitive form of the quintessentially Indian sport is already extremely popular across the world and with good television coverage and passionate team owners; Kabaddi's massive following has the potential to make it the next big thing in sport.”
Mashal Sports MD and well known commentator, compere and quizmaster Charu Sharma, who is the force behind conceptualising and organising the league recalled how he was pleasantly shocked to see the power, passion and reach of Kabaddi while commentating during the 2006 Doha Asian Games. “I just knew, instinctively then, and more surely now, that modern, international Kabaddi has all the ingredients required to make it a major, visible force in the world of sport. I am truly grateful to the many visionaries who have made Pro Kabaddi possible,” he remarked.
World Sport Group (WSG) is the official commercial and event partners of the Pro Kabaddi League that has seen significant franchisee interest. Already pledging their support as team owners are leading entrepreneurs such as Ronnie Screwvala, Rajesh Shah (Mukand Group) and Kishore Biyani. Advanced discussions are on with other corporate giants such as the GMR Group and Murugappa Group. Even Shah Rukh Khan is known to be interested in it.
The league has been organised in association with International Kabaddi Federation, Asian Kabaddi Federation and Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India.
All Pro Kabaddi League matches will be played on a specially developed mat in state of the art indoor stadiums across eight cities. Top Kabaddi players from across India and the globe will participate in a show of intense competition and sporting camaraderie. A 10-minute exhibition match between top players in an 'arena-within-an-arena' at the NSCI Indoor Stadium, Mumbai spectacularly showcased the fresh, exciting and international face of Kabaddi.
Ogilvy & Mather executive chairman and creative director South Asia Piyush Panday said: “Kabaddi is the ultimate combination of power, agility and tactics. It is one of India’s unique treasures and I am glad that we are able to present it an international stage in such an exciting format.”
The matches will be preceded by a player auction, where each of the teams will get equal opportunity to build their squads. Almost 100 players will be auctioned, out of which 72 players will be Indian and the rest will be international players from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Canada, England, Indonesia, Italy, Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkmenistan, United States of America, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.
The League is set to take the sport to a new level of prominence and ensure that stars such as Navneet Gautam, Rakesh Kumar, Ajay Thakur and Rajaguru are bound to become the new sporting heroes.
Matches will be played as per the current international rules and regulations of the IKF. The Federation is also seriously considering making some small but significant changes to the game, to enhance its appeal on television.
Pro Kabaddi League, will have robust marketing strategies. Each franchisee will not only have their team colours and star players but also create their own fan following with innovative media outreach strategies. Sports enthusiasts, in India and across the world, can keep track of the matches, scores, and players as well as participate in the game through social media platforms such as the league’s website www.prokabaddi.com, Twitter handle @prokabaddi and Facebook page Pro Kabaddi.