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Assam becomes first North-East team to take up Kabaddi




 Hosts Assam made their debut in Kabaddi here at the Khelo India Youth Games on Thursday, becoming the first state from the North-East to take up this highly popular sport.

Cheered on by enthusiastic and vociferous fans, their Under-17 and Under—21 teams put up a tough fight in each of their opening matches before going down to stronger, more experienced teams. But that hasn’t daunted any of the players or the coaches.

“We are making our debut here in kabaddi, and we are the first team from the North-East to do so,” Siddikur Rahman, who is a coach as well as the captain of the senior team, said, even as his wards were battling it out with powerhouses from the North.

“But look at the support the players are getting. This is amazing. Assam will soon become a force to reckon with,” he added.

“When we started playing, we only had mud courts. We taught ourselves the nuances of the game on them, watching our seniors at play,” Jakir Ali, their second coach, said. “But now we played Haryana (the defending champions) without fear. In fact their coach, the respected Surinder Singh, commended us,” he added.

Interestingly, Siddikur Rahman, Jakir Ali and Mustan Ahmed, the three coaches of the Assam boys’ U-17 and U-21 teams, first  met on a kabaddi court in their village, Faturi, almost three decades ago.

“How long ago was that? Honestly I don’t remember. Long enough that we have forgotten,” Siddikur laughed. “But it was the start of a fascinating journey.”

Siddikur said that he improved his game by constantly seeking advice from better players from other prosperous kabaddi states. “It took us years and lots of painful losses to master the game. The opportunities for exposure were also limited. Compared to that, I am happy that these boys take part in a national event at such a young age,” he explained.

“They are lucky. We drill this into the players. They have been given a golden opportunity. And we tell them stories of every player who preceded them and the hardships they had to endure,” Mustan added. “When they step on the mat, they should wear their hearts on their sleeves,” Jakir chipped in.

Assam’s prime focus now is ensuring that the teams go into their second group games better prepared. “They were a little awed by the occasion on Thursday. They cannot be nervous the next time,” Jakir said.

While Jakir has put his playing career on hold to pursue coaching, the other two are still actively playing and express hope that they may some day catch the eye of a team in the PKL. All three are confident that it won’t be long before that day dawns on Assam.

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