From being a ‘mediocre player’ to becoming the poster boy of Kabaddi, the 23-year old Rahul Chaudhari has come a long way and believes whatever he has achieved today is all because of the sport he lives for. Watching his elder brother Rohit Kumar play for their village team from the sidelines ignited the interest for the game in the 10-year old boy. Rahul, who hails from Bijnore district of Uttar Pradesh, where wrestling and Kabaddi are the only two sports which exist, made it to his school Kabaddi team at the age of 13.
But his parents were never supported him for following his brother’s footsteps and wanted him to excel in studies. “Maa, pita ji chahte the ki main padu, par mera mann toh kabaddi khelne mein lagta tha. Aage ke darwaze se ghusta to peeche diwaar phand k chala jata. Aur vapas aake pita ji se maar bhi pit jaati thi (Parents wanted me to study but my mind was in playing Kabaddi. Use to find ways to escape and get onto the field. My father used to beat me for playing Kabaddi),” he says.
After playing for his local team for two to three years, he went to Gandhinagar (Gujarat) for trials at SAI in 2009. With little knowledge about the sport at the national level, Rahul was amazed by facilities available there and then surprisingly got to know that the sport he had been playing from so long could also fetch him a job. With dedication and improvement in the game, Rahul got placed in Air India’s Kabaddi team. He recalls that ” I worked for Air India on a contract basis and use to get free tickets for travel. Earlier, only organisers and players recognised me. And today the life is a lot different. Now kids say that they want to meet me and be like me.” He believes it was his brother’s constant support that has helped him reach such greater heights.
It was then when he came on television for the first time that his father believed that he has excelled in his life. In three years of Pro Kabaddi League, Rahul became the only player to score 500 raid points, something which he had not even thought of doing when Telugu Titans bought him for Rs 8.20 lakh in the auctions for the inaugural season in 2014. “Pehle to pita ji mane nhi ki mujhe kisi ne 8.20 lakh mein khareed liye. Bole ki jhut bol rha hai. Leking mujhe khelte hue dekh k khush hogae (Initially he refused to accept that I fetched Rs 8.20 lakh and said I was lying. But after he saw me on tv he was happy),” said the emotional Rahul for whom father’s happiness became the reason to perform better.
His fine form earned him a place in the national team for the World Cup in Ahmedabad last October. Earlier, he had led the Indian Kabaddi team at the Beach Asian Games in Phuket in 2014. Sharing the dressing room with the likes of Anup Kumar, Manjeet Chhillar and Rakesh Kumar was just a dream come true for the star raider. In the past, he had only heard about these players from his brother or others had seen them play.
Last season he was the most successful raider of the season with 110 raid points and with the fifth season of the league to begin from mid of July, Rahul is all geared up to take charge of his newly formed brigade and looking forward to delivering for the Titans.