An insight into the sport of Kabaddi

By Numia Ponika-Rangi

The team will represent NZ at the 2013 Kabaddi World Cup tournament in November. So what is Kabaddi? Who are these Māori women, and why are these women playing a sport from India? 

A circular playing field, with two teams occupying their halves, and a small gate marked on the line dividing the circle. A raider must leave and return through this gate, and the teams alternate in sending a raider across to the other's territory.

The raider has exactly 30 seconds to cross into enemy territory, touch one of the four defenders and return to his own half, without getting caught by the defender previously touched. Success means a point, but if he runs out of time, it's the defender who gets the point. This is the ancient northern Indian sport of Kabaddi.

The first Punjabis came to NZ well over 100 years ago. There are now close to 10,000 Punjabi Sikhs residing in NZ. The first NZ Kabaddi tournament was held in Hamilton in 1990. There are now several tournaments a year and eight clubs around the country. All Kabaddi players here are men.

Tara Singh, a member of the Manurewa Sikh community, put the word out to locals last month to gauge interest in starting a women's Kabaddi team, in the hope of participating in this year's Kabaddi World Cup Tournament in India.

The NZ women's Kabaddi team was invited to Tauranga by the Sikh Sports Club of Bay of Plenty, to put on an exhibition game in front of hundreds from the Punjabi community. It also gave the women a chance to watch the men's games.

The women obviously made a huge impression in Tauranga, as they received accolades, praise and offers of moral and financial support from the Punjabi people, in their campaign towards next month's Kabaddi World Cup.

So to honour the sport of Kabaddi, its origins and its people, the first ever NZ women's Kabaddi team have just one focus when they arrive in India: Victory - no more, no less.