A New Zealand Women’s Kabaddi team, comprising entirely Maori, has been a source of endearment to thousands of people who have been watching them play for the past three weekends in various parts of Auckland.
The team has been measuring up to the World Champions from India, although they are yet to learn the ‘special techniques’ employed in Kabaddi.
Considering that Kabaddi has thus far been a male-dominated game and the fact that it is yet to evince the wider interest of wider communities the team deserves commendation.
The women in the crowd could not hold back. They cheered the players, making it a family atmosphere filled with love, friendship and goodwill.
There were many emotional highs throughout the game. While the local girls did their best and demonstrated their stamina and enthusiasm, they are still learning the techniques.
The newly formed New Zealand Kabaddi Federation is organising the five weekend Kabaddi series, apart from hosting the World Cup winning team from India.
The visitors are currently enjoying Kiwi hospitality, augmented by New Zealand’s pristine environment.
From their first record crowd tournament at the Takanini Gurdwara grounds to the last Tournament held at the Papatoetoe Sports Centre on Sunday, May 11, the visiting girls have become favourites of New Zealanders.
They will be playing in Manurewa, South Auckland on Sunday, May 18 and the final game on May 25 in Tauranga.
Organisers of the five-match series were pleased with the positive vibe that Kabaddi has created among various ethnicities and the opportunity to bring together Maori and Indian communities was well utilised.
There are four Girls teams currently playing the local league in New Zealand. The teams, from Auckland, Wellington, Bay of Plenty and Waikato, practice regularly and attend local fixtures.
The profile of Kabaddi has moved up to a much higher plane.
Who would have thought that New Zealand would have a Women’s Kabaddi team with Maori player and who would have imagined that these youngsters, predominantly Rugby League players, would make it all the way to Punjab?
It all started in Tauranga before a crowd of people mostly of Punjabi origin. They were showered with love, respect and of course cash prizes. They received intensive training for the World Cup and took to the game with seriousness and passion.
The World Cup and the participation of the local team have done wonders for the game of Kabaddi in New Zealand. There was immense publicity with TVNZ and Maori Television covering the World Cup matches.
There has been excitement in the men’s section as well.
At the tournament held in Hamilton last week, the Doaba Sports Club clinched the match, winning against the Tauranga team.
J P Sahota and Billa Musapuria jointly won the Best Raider title, while Mandeep Kooner and Harminder Kahlon were the joint winners of the Best Stopper prize.
Earlier, Doaba beat Azad Sports Club.
After the preliminary men’s match up, the main fixture between the New Zealand and Indian girls Kabaddi teams started introduction of the teams and players with flags waving in all directions.
Kabaddi has since long been a male-dominated sport in Punjab, although it is popular with both boys and girls in the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu. As such, watching young women playing the game in New Zealand was a unique experience.
With so many games and arousing so much interest, the Kabaddi season has been extended indefinitely in New Zealand.
Navtej Randhawa is a successful entrepreneur and a professional. He is an impressive young community leader who promotes cross-cultural initiatives.