6 May 2024

"It's like the hype around rugby" - Kabaddi's loyal following

From Here Now, 5:00 am on 6 May 2024


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At the Takanini Sikh temple where an intense Kabaddi match is underway, the teams are tussling it out one final time after six weeks of playing matches all around the country.

Spectators at Kabaddi

Photo: Kadambari Gladding/RNZ

The stands behind the temple are filling up, samosas and chai are being served up generously and the passion’s running high. It’s bit of a spectacle this game in action - a lot of tussling, wrestling, bare-bodied brawn, speed and serious technique is in play.

International promoters are keeping a close an eye on New Zealand, keen to pick up players for the global circuit after watching NZ matches online. For promoters like Kantha Dhaliwal, this is ideal and makes New Zealand the perfect launching pad for new players' careers. 

Kabaddi at Takanini Gurdwara

Kabaddi at Takanini Gurdwara Photo: Kadambari Gladding/RNZ

Kabaddi is a bit like bullrush, and players here are proudly calling it 'the hyper on rugby'.

It originally was played on a dirt ground but once it caught on as a sport in countries like the UK and the US within the Punjabi diaspora it’s played on grass. There are several variations of the game, indoor on a rectangular court, outdoor on a circular field. There's also the national style versus Punjab style, which is what's underway here in Takanini.

This kabaddi season comes to an end in NZ with this last tournament in Takanini while the second season begins roughly in November.