TAXILA: Emphasising that the game of kabaddi can play an important role in bringing the people, sportspersons in particular, of Pakistan and India closer, president of the International Kabaddi Federation Janardan Singh Gehlot says the time has come to spread the sport beyond its traditional boundaries.

“Kabaddi is very famous across both sides of the border and is free from politics; and by organising more events like the Asian Kabaddi Cup, not only this traditional sport can be promoted further but the gap between [people of] the two countries can also be reduced,” Gehlot of India said during an exclusive interview to Dawn here at the POF sports complex Wah Cantt, where he came to witness the third Asian Kabaddi Cup final on Friday.

Lauding the Pakistan Kabaddi Federation (PKF) and the Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) sports control board for organising a prominent event like the Asian Kabaddi Cup in a benefiting manner, Gehlot said holding more such contests besides patronising the sport would also boost Pakistan’s soft image across the globe.

The IKF president wants the sport of kabaddi to be extended outside its traditional boundaries.

“The time is ripe to promote this game at the international level. Previously, the ‘circle style’ kabaddi was known only as the game of India and Pakistan but now with the participation from Iran and Afghanistan [in the Asian Kabaddi Cup], this game can be spread across Asia,” Gehlot stated.

Although different formats of the sport, including beach kabaddi, were played across the world but the ‘circle style’ needed to be promoted, he insisted.

Responding to a question, the IKF president said the matter of staging the fourth Asian Kabaddi Cup in Pakistan had not been decided yet, adding “this will be finalised in the next meeting of the IKF”.

Meanwhile, speaking on this occasion, PKF secretary Chaudhry Sarwar said his federation having smoothly organised the third Asian Kabaddi Cup would try to get the hosting rights of the fourth edition.

Earlier on Friday, defending champions Pakistan overwhelmed arch-rivals India 50-31 in the Asian Kabaddi Cup final to retain the title at the POF Wah Sports Complex.

Till the end of the first half, Pakistan dominated the proceedings as they led 24-15, a position the home side kept onwards. Irfan Mana, Sajid Gujjar and Musharraf Janjua were the prominent point scorers for the hosts.

Iran, meanwhile, claimed third position after comfortably defeating Afghanistan 57-14 in the last league match.

Apart from the hosts, India, Iran and Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka also featured in the continental event.

POF chairman Lt Gen Omer Mehmood Hayat, the chief guest, distributed prizes and trophies among the players.

Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2016