Saturday, December 16, 2006

Asian Games - Kabbadi

Man it's been raining a lot here. The last two weeks have reminded me of Vancouver, it seems like everyday it has been rainy and drizzling. I think, like Vancouver, the rain record for Doha in December has been exceeded. After six months of never seeing a drop of rain I'm starting to wish for Sun again. Anyway, back to the Asian Games.

I briefly mentioned in the last post about a sport called kabbadi (kah-bah-dee). It's from India and is played primarily in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Definately an odd sport, like nothing I've ever seen, sort of a cross between tag and rugby.

Anyway here's how it works. You have seven players a side on a court roughly about the size of a badminton court. One player from a team crosses over to the other team's side to try to touch as may players as possible (that's the tag portion) then cross back into his zone. Any touched player is out and the tagger's team gets a point for each. While the tagger is in the other team's zone they are allowed to tackle him BUT if the tagger can even touch the middle line then everyone who touched him is out (remember the court is the size of a badminton court so that middle line is never too far away and all the tagger needs to do is touch it with the tips of his fingers). It creates an odd situation where the team has to stay far enough away to avoid a tag yet close enough to jump on the guy for a mass tackle. Meanwhile the tagger has to get close enough to tag guys yet try to remain close enough to the middle line to make a break for it if five-seven guys try to jump on him at once.

There's a few other rules but that's the basics in a nutshell. So when it is played at the professional level it almost looks like syncronized dance, as the tagger moves towards someone he moves out of the way while the rest of the team moves closer, then the tagger turns around and the other guys move away while their teammates move closer. Try to find a video of it on YouTube if you can. Seriously if you didn't know how it was played it looks like choreographed dance, with a sudden break when guys leap on somebody and paste him into the mat.

At the Asian Games there were five teams playing: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Japan (??). Sri Lanka didn't have a team but Indian coworkers told me that kabbadi is a northern India game which is not popular in southern India or Sri Lanka. No idea why Japan had a team though.

I saw a number of games and went to the final, India beat Pakistan for the win. Because Doha has a large number of workers from India and Pakistan thousands of people turned up to watch the final, but since the kabbadi ring only had about 600 seats most of them, me included, had to watch from a giant TV screen just outside. Apparantly hundreds more who didn't have tickets to the Aspire Sports Complex just stayed outside and watched it on screens out there.

Oh I almost forgot why it's called kabbadi. When the tagger crosses into the other team's zone he's not allowed to take a breath so he has to do his tagging and get back all in one breath. How does the refs monitor that he's not taking a breath? The tagger has to continuously say 'kabbadi' while in the other team's zone. I told you this game was odd.

Anyway it's does have it's slow moments but is definately worth watching at least once.

Rating: 7/10. I gave it an extra point just because for once in my life I had the hottest tickets in town. While walking towards the stadium I was asked twice by people if I had extra tickets, and hundreds were massed outside hoping to get a ticket. The Indian victory celebrations was pretty cool too.

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