Iran become first finalists of Kabaddi World Cup as they beat South Korea in a low scoring thriller on Friday. Iran came back from 11-13 down to beat the Koreans by 28-22.
Meraj Sheykh’s side, also, ended Korea’s unbeaten run. After losing the toss, Iran was asked to make the first raid of the game and Meraj made sure that he does not disappoint his side. However, Koreans managed to push pressure on Iran till the end of first half as they lead 13-11. Jang Kun Lee remained their top scorer tonight with four raid points.
Iran will play the winner of India vs Thailand on October 22 at 8 PM IST.
Meraj Sheykh was the top scorer for Iran as he finished with seven points followed by Abozar Mighani adding four crucial points for his side.
Last four minutes of game saw Iran not getting any point through raids but it was there defence, which made sure that they do not let the game slip from their hands.
Iran qualify for the final as they beat South Korea 28-22 in a low scoring thriller.
Sudden change in Iran’s defence as they are outplaying South Korean raiders.
Jang Kun Lee to raid next and he is taken down easily. Lee has just scored three points in 14 raids tonight
One point for both the teams as Dong Geon Lee is dashed out of the mat by Fazel and Soleiman Pahlevani. Unfortunately, Soleiman steps out of the lobby, gifting one point to Korea.
Another do-or-die raid for Iran and Meraj comes in against five men standing and Jang Kun Lee’s side take him down deep.
We are into the last 10 minutes of the game and for now, Iran lead 21-17.
Do-or-die raid for Meraj Sheykh. Meraj has scored five points tonight and the Iranian captain makes sure he gets one more point for his team.
It has been a low scoring game tonight but superb display from both the teams. Iran lead 19-17 with Jang Kun Lee getting a soft toe touch and getting a point from the left corner
Jang Kun Lee attempts scorpion kick in right corner and is taken down as Meraj Sheykh goes for a diving double ankle hold.
Review unsuccessful for South Korea. Now both the teams are left with no more TV reviews available. Meraj Sheykh with a successful raid equals the score.
South Korea down to two man in the start of the second half and Tae Beom Kim
gets a bonus point for Korea.
Half Time: South Korea lead 13-11. It has been an impressive show by Koreans while for Iran, their defence has been the major concern for them.
That was Meraj Sheykh at his very best as he hops over Korean defender to avoid another empty raid.
Mohsen Maghsoudlou finds a quick finger touch as he returns after a rapid raid. Iran trail 8-13
Jang Kun Lee in for his eighth raid and he has just scored three raid points so far.
Meraj Sheykh to raid next and he gets a point for his side. Meraj pushes Korean defender to get a finger touch of the mid line
South Korea inflict first all out of the game on Iran. That was a suprb raid from Jang Kun Lee as he gets a finger touch of Iran’s last man.
Early lead for the Koreans as they lead 6-3 in the first 10 minutes of the game.
Iran has gone for a tv review as Farah denies referee’s decision of him stepping inside the lobby. And this is another point for South Korea.
Meraj Sheykh in for a do-or-die raid and he returns back without getting a touch of South Korean player. However, there was some confusion but the referee’s decision went towards Korean side.
South Korea in another do-or-die raid situation and their raider Dong Geon Lee is taken down as he tries to return back.
Do-or-die raid for Iran and Abolfazl must score. Abolfazl is aiming the left corner but he is taken down by a strong ankle hold
Jang Kun Lee yet to score his first point of the tournament and he does it in his second raid of the game.
First point on the board as Meraj Sheykh escapes Korean attack and return back safely. Followed by a defence point for Iran.
Two empty raids for both the sides. This means next raid for Iran and South Korea will be a do-or-die raid. Meraj must score or else he will find himself on the bench.
South Korea win toss and choose left court. That means Meraj Sheykh’s side will make the first raid of the game.
Iran holds on to its Kabaddi history with an iron grip
There were only a handful of words Meraj Sheykh could understand given the language barrier. The Indian coach appointed to assist the Iran team at the Kabaddi World Cup, KC Suthar, was deep in discussion about how the sport originated in India and steadily moved westwards to the Gulf. That’s when Sheykh knew exactly what was happening. His refute was ready – almost rehearsed.
“You say you made kabaddi 4,000 years ago, we made it 5000 years back,” asserted the Iran captain.
The argument continues even as Iran prepare to take on South Korea in the semi-final of the international event in Ahmedabad. A win there would take them to the final — their third — where they will face the winner of the match between Thailand and India. Sheykh hopes it’s India.
Iran, though, continue to maintain they have chronological precedence over Indian kabaddi. Their manager Mojtaba Tazike stepped in to support his comrade.
“No my friend, we made the game,” he told Suthar.
Sheykh, meanwhile, switched on a nearby computer to open an internet page on the ancient archaeological site of Shahr-e-Sukhteh, discovered in the early 20th century in the Sistan area of Iran – a hotbed of kabaddi. “Kabaddi mentioned over there in the ruins. 5,000 years…,” he added.
Iranians claim their heritage and role in the sport with a great degree of pride and passion, and it’s with the same gusto that the team has started breaking ground on the international stage.
A unique style of training is what makes the West Asian outfit a formidable opponent. While their Indian counterparts work continuously on training in the sport itself, the Iranians are all certified wrestlers and train for ‘Kushti’ even during kabaddi camps.
“That’s where they get that unmatched muscle power in their holds,” explains Bhaskaran Edachery, who coached the Indian team to the 2010 Asian Games gold.
Furthermore, their style of ‘kushti’ has a certain element that makes it even more useful on the kabaddi mat. During training sessions, the Iranians drench themselves in oil and wrestle in an attempt to improve their gripping technique.
“Oil makes the body very slippery. So they have to work extra hard to get a good grip while wrestling. You need a lot of strength for that. So when they’re playing kabaddi, their defenders have that technique and extra power to help them,” explains Raju Bhavsar, who was part of the Indian team that won at the 1990 Asian Games.
Even in their current squad, the assistant coach Daliri Ebad is a certified wrestling coach. Their star defender Fazel Atrachali takes up competitive wrestling during the off-season to help him keep up in kabaddi.
Interestingly enough, while Iran is considered a strong favourite to lift the title in Ahmedabad, the country didn’t make its Asian Games debut till 2006. Two years later, their federation took the crucial decision of inviting former India captain Ashan Kumar to coach their team for the 2010 Asian Games.
“They had seen and played the game before, but it was more a ‘timepass’ sport. The people there were quite lazy about it,” recalls Ashan, who skippered the 1990 Indian team at the Beijing Asian Games. “So I immediately told the Iranian federation that I will do things my way and want no interference. They agreed,” he adds.
The first step was to get the otherwise lethargic players to work on their fitness.
“Unko din raat bhagaaya. Acche se ragadaya,” he recalls. The 55-year-old holds special memories of Atrachali as well, remembering him as a notoriously lazy player.
“I used to hit him with a stick all the time. Bahut maar khaya. He even complained about me. And look at him today. He’s the best defender in the world,” Ashan says.
The former India skipper led Iran to a silver medal at Guangzhou 2010. Four years later, sans Ashan, Iran lost the final against India yet again. It was a match, however, that India captain Rakesh Kumar mentioned as the one India ‘should not have won’, so close the Iranians came to causing an almighty upset.
At home, the set-up provides for a three-month long national championship in which 16 teams compete from all regions. The better players have steadily been catching the eye of scouts of the Pro Kabaddi League.
Through their own style or training and research, Iran has steadily made itself a giant in the modern game. So much so that Rakesh asserted after the Incheon final that Pakistan no longer remains India’s biggest threat.
“It’s not about beating Pakistan anymore. It’s the one against Iran that we cannot afford to lose,” he had said.
Iran, in turn, has its own challenge against India. Enroute to the playoff stage of the World Cup, a relatively lax performance saw them shockingly lose to Poland. But they didn’t make much for it.
“That match didn’t matter,” Sheykh says. For Iran, their only goal is to beat India.