Eirik Bjorno Staff Writer
Do you have a bunch of friends just sitting around and a big open space that you don’t use? Tired of the regular Frisbee games and want something more challenging? Try a round of Kabaddi.
My favorite part of writing this column is to learn how to play and about the history of all these strange sports. After researching both the history and the rules of the sports I normal- ly have a good understanding of how to play them. This time though, it was a little rough, but try to stay with me.
The game is played with two teams of seven players, on a field that is divided into two equal squares. Before the game starts, you flip a coin to see who starts as the offensive team. The teams alternate offense and defense until the game is over.
Now it starts to get interesting.
The offending team sends out a “raider” to the enemy side of the field where he tries to touch as many of the opposing teams players as possible, before returning safely to his side of the field. There is a catch though; he needs to do all this while yelling: “kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi…” repeatedly and in one long breath.
If he makes it back to safety in one breath, all the players he tagged need to leave the field, and the offensive team gets a point for each of them.
The defenders on the other side can obviously try to hold the “raider” back on their side, so he runs out of breath. To make it fair the defense can only try to hold the “raider” back after he tagged the first player, as well as only four “stoppers” can be on the field at one time. If a “raider” is stopped before returning home, or he fails to continuously yell “kabaddi,” he is ruled out of the game. The team with the most points after two, 20 minute halves, wins the game. In other words, a more advanced version of the childhood game “Tag” or “You’re It”.
No, I’m not making this up; it is actually a real sport. Some articles suggest that it can be dated over 400 years back, when Indian soldiers used the game to improve their self-defense skills. The first time Kabaddi received international attention was dur- ing the Olympic Games in Ber- lin in 1936, when the game was introduced as a potential new Olympic sport. The application never went through, but the sport was inducted into the In- dian Olympic Games in 1938.
India has not surprisingly dominated the sport at the inter- national level, as they have won the World Cup in 2004, 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012. In the 2012 tournament, there were 16 coun- tries competing, including Den- mark, Norway, the U.K. and the United States.
If you would like to play the sport; there is no official Kabaddi Group in New York, but there is a small group who plays occasionally in Flushing Meadows Park in New York City. I do not have many tips on how to become a good enough Kabaddi player to join the U.S. National team, but if you dominated the school yard playing “tag” as a kid, maybe this is the sport for you.