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LAHORE, Pakistan: Pakistan’s rugby union chiefs are hoping to exploit the traditional tag-wrestling sport of kabaddi as they try to boost the game and build the country’s fledgling international team.
Kabaddi, in which players hold their breath and try to tag an opponent before making it back to their half of the field, involves many of the skills needed for rugby -- speed, strength, tackling and evasive running.
In a country where anything other than cricket struggles to get a look in, the Pakistan Rugby Union (PRU) has grown rapidly since it was founded 10 years ago and now boasts more than 3,000 regular players.
And after the launch of a new “Super League” last month, PRU president Fawzi Khawaja said he now hopes to tap the reservoir of kabaddi talent.
The traditional team sport is very popular, particularly in Punjab, and last year Pakistan were winners of the Asia Cup and runners-up in the World Cup against arch-rivals India.
But Khawaja said that while there were national-level kabaddi players in the police rugby team, it was hard to lure people from what is a lucratively paid professional sport.
“If and when we can graduate to paying our players I’m sure we can attract a lot of kabaddi players,” he said.
The new league started on a sunny spring Sunday in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city. The posts were lengths of bamboo taped to football goals and the groundsmen were still painting lines on the pitch 10 minutes before kick-off.
But the competition in the four-team top division was fierce, with the opening round pitting the Army against Lahore, and Islamabad against the Defence Housing Association, a government department team.
While the Lahore-Army clash showed some early-season rustiness, fumbles and tactical naivety, the game was also packed with blood-curdling tackles, two sin-binnings and a suspected dislocated shoulder. AFP