Puneri Paltan defender Ziaur Rahman, the only Bangladesh player who was picked by a franchise during the Pro Kabaddi season 5 auction, thinks his participation in the league will bring a change in kabaddi’s popularity in his country and inspire the youth to play the sport. “Now that Bangladesh has made its presence in the league, I think more players will show interest in being a part of it, which will further improve youths interest in the sport,” Rahman told indianexpress.com.
Despite being the national game back home, and country’s podium finishes in 2016 South Asian Games, 2007 World Cup and three silver medals in Asian Games, Kabaddi continues to be out of favour among the locals in Bangladesh.
“Conditions in Bangladesh are not the same as that of India. People there like cricket and football more. In India, I feel Kabaddi is just after cricket. It is so famous in rural areas and we see people come in great numbers to watch the matches as well.”
While his current favourite cricketer is Mashrafe Mortaza, Rahman says he liked watching former Indian cricketer Zaheer Khan bowl. “My favourite cricketer was Zaheer Khan but now he has retired from international cricket.”
Rahman, a Lance Corporal in the army, has been a part of Bangladeshi kabaddi set-up for over four years and was a part of the national team for the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup in Ahmedabad.
“I first came to India for the World Cup. It was very different than what we had expected. It was great. Knowing the popularity of cricket in India and the way they have hosted other big events, we knew it wouldn’t be anything less,” said Rahman.
Unlike Indian players, who are introduced to Kabaddi at a very early age, the 22-year old came across Kabaddi six years ago, and it stuck. “I started playing Kabaddi six years ago before that I played football. When my army instructor asked me to try Kabaddi, I hesitated but I found it easy. Then I got selected in the national team. Abdul Jalil, our national coach, helped me improve my game. Now that I am a part of this league, my only target is to excel in the sport,” revealed Rahman.
Stories about the Indian Kabaddi captain Anup Kumar are very common in Bangladesh. Those who have played against the Indian captain, talk about his stature. Rahman’s wish to meet Anup came true when the two nations played each other in the group stage of the World Cup.
“We had heard a lot about Anup from our seniors, that how good a player, a captain he is. We wanted to see him once and know why the kabaddi world goes gaga over him. After the World Cup, PKL gave me another chance to play against him. We have some good players in our team too. Deepak (Hooda) and Sandeep (Narwal) are exceptional. It is a great experience sharing the dressing room with such players,” said Rahman.
Rahman has impressed one and all for his dash. The defender unleashes a powerful dash with his head and takes the raider down. One instance came when he took down Patna Pirates raider Monu Goyat in Lucknow. He feels training with Indian players can help his game but commitments back home leave him very little time.
“Given a chance, I would like to train here in India. But my responsibilities in the army and national team do not allow me to do that. Indian players are exceptional in the sport, so do Iranians. Also, I would like to see more players from Bangladesh in Pro Kabaddi next time.