Efforts to professionalise Punjab’s favourite rural sport have gotten off to a poor start. On Saturday, the final trials for the World Kabaddi League (WKL) were held in Ludhiana’s Guru Nanak Sports Stadium without medical facilities. There were no doctors, no ambulances, not even first aid kits at the trial site.
To make matters worse, the players were called in at 11 am but were kept waiting till 4 pm. Even the efforts to make the sport drug-free drew flak as the players had to shell out Rs 30,000 for dope tests. Although the amount is refundable for all who clear the test, the players complained about the fact that they had to produce the huge fee instantly.
Around 316 kabaddi players had been short-listed for the final trials in May this year. Of these, however, only 273 showed up for the dope tests on Saturday even though nearly all of them had turned up in the morning. Those short-listed were not happy at the high fee being charged for the test, which was conducted by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
“I have no idea when the money will be refunded and I have to pay from my own pocket,” said Sarabjeet Singh, a kabaddi player from Natt village. “In Canada, UK and US, where kabaddi clubs conduct tournaments, the refundable dope test fee is Rs 20,000; in India, it should be lesser but is instead on the higher side,” said Gurmukh Singh of Jalandhar’s Mallanwal Brahmin village.
The World Kabaddi League (WKL) authorities are aiming to short-list about 200 players from India and abroad, who will be divided into 10 teams. The first match is scheduled to be played at London on August 1. The league will be played in the form of weekend matches at the UK, Canada, USA, France, Belgium, Pakistan and India.
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal is the WKL chairman while SAD MLA and former hockey Olympian Pargat Singh is the league’s commissioner.