Pakistan win circle style Kabaddi World Cup by beating ‘unauthorized Indian team’ in final

Pakistan beat 'an Indian side' 43-41 in the circle style Kabaddi World Cup final on Sunday. (Twitter)

Pakistan won the circle style Kabaddi World Cup by beating an Indian team in the final in Lahore on Sunday night, even as Indian authorities cried foul over the 'India' team not having permission to represent the country in the tournament.

Pakistan fought back in the second half to secure a 43-41 win over the defending champions in the final. This is the first time the circle style Kabaddi World Cup has been won by a country other than India.

Circle kabaddi is slightly different from standard kabaddi, which is part of the Asian Games. While the standard format has seven players, below 80kg in weight, per side, circle kabaddi features eight, does not have any weight restrictions and the field of play is a circle.

India are still the champions of the standard style Kabaddi World Cup, which is conducted by the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF), having won the last edition of the World Cup in 2016 by beating Iran in the final.

Indian authorities disown team

A storm has been brewing over the Indian side's presence in Pakistan, with India’s kabaddi governing body (AKFI), Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the government all having disowned the team.

Pictures and videos of the Indian side reaching Lahore via the Wagah border emerged on social media last week. Soon after, however, the Sports Ministry said no Indian team had been given permission to travel to Pakistan.

“The sports ministry and the ministry of external affairs have not granted any permission to any team, which is mandatory while representing the country at any international event,” a sports ministry source was quoted by Press Trust of India (PTI) as saying.

"Playing in the name of the country with India's flag being used are matters to be investigated," Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju said.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has also said it has not sanctioned any kabaddi team’s visit to Pakistan.

“The IOA has been left shell-shocked after a kabaddi team from India reached Pakistan to take part in the World Championship,” IOA president Narinder Batra was quoted by news agency IANS as saying.

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“The IOA has not approved and it has also not been approved by the federation so I don’t know who has gone. The kabaddi federation, which is a member of IOA, has confirmed that they have not sent anyone. I have seen statements from the (sports) ministry which confirm they have not approved anyone. So I don’t know who they are and what the story is,” Narinder said. “It has got nothing to do with Indian sports,” he added.

“As long as our member unit has not cleared it, they cannot use the word ‘India.’ It has to come through IOA and the government, only then you can use that word. Some individuals with Indian passport go and play there as India, that is not how sports are run. But then, I can never predict anything about Pakistan, that’s beyond my control. They can do whatever they want,” Narinder said.

The Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI) said in a press release last week: "AKFI has requested Pakistan Kabaddi Federation not to permit any individual to play any 'Kabaddi World Cup' to represent 'India'. The individual should not be allowed to wear jersey/track suits with the name 'India'. They cannot use India flag."

International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) president Janardhan Singh Gehlot said, “This is an invalid tournament where players who are not recognised by the world body are participating."

The role of Punjab Kabaddi Association (PKA)

Questions have been raised about the role of the Punjab Kabaddi Association (PKA), as most players participating in the tournament are affiliated to this state body. The list bearing the names of officials and players is signed by PKA president Sikander Singh Maluka

According to ‘The Tribune’, PKA officials have said they did send an 'Indian' team to Pakistan but that the players are not representing the country but are playing as an 'individual unit'.

PKA vice-president Tejinder Singh Middukhera said: “Pakistan Kabaddi Federation is organising the championship to celebrate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev and since circle-style kabaddi is played only in Punjab, we have got the invitation to participate there.”

“If a team represents a country, it needs the necessary permission from the government,” he added. “But the players affiliated with us went there (Pakistan) on their own and will play as a unit. They have been to other countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and USA, in a similar manner to participate in various tournaments.”