Winnipeg Kabbadi Cup back in action after COVID layoff

Ancient Indian sport draws players and fans from around world


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(imageTagFull)Thousands of people are expected to be at the Maples Community Centre field on Sunday to watch some of the top kabaddi players in the world.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/08/2022 (275 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Committee members of Winnipeg Kabbadi Association met at the grounds of Maples Community Centre. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey / Winnipeg Free Press)

Thousands of people are expected to be at the Maples Community Centre field on Sunday to watch some of the top kabaddi players in the world.


If that was your response to the first sentence, you’re not alone.

For those unfamiliar with the game, kabaddi is a contact sport that originated in Ancient India. There are different versions and styles, but essentially the game is comprised of two teams with two different types of players: raiders and stoppers. The raiders are on the attack and they get points if they can touch a stopper (a defender) and return to their side of the field in 30 seconds without being tackled. The stoppers earn points for their team when they shut down a raider.

It’s kind of like tag, but for linebackers.

“It’s pretty aggressive. You need physical force and strong muscles to play kabaddi right,” Sukh Sandhu, a member of the Winnipeg Kabaddi Association (WKA), told the Free Press on Friday as organizers began to set up for Sunday’s tournament.

“There’s no equipment. When you watch one player try to get away and another player try to keep them on the ground, there’s a lot of use of force and it makes it exciting.”

The Maples event, which is run by the WKA and a long list of sponsors, is called the Winnipeg Kabaddi Cup and its been running annually since 2012. This is the first edition since the pandemic as 90 per cent of the players come from outside of Winnipeg. The winning team will receive a cheque for $5,500.

Kabaddi has ancient roots in India where games are televised. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“We have players from the United Kingdom, America, Australia, most of India, and other Canadian cities, too,” said WKA secretary Deep Grewal.

“They’re big names and people want to see them (play). When people see them, especially small kids, it’s exciting and they get inspiration from watching the big names play.”

The sport is very common in Southern Asia, so for people who’ve immigrated to Winnipeg from that area, the Kabaddi Cup reminds them of home.

“Especially in North Punjab, probably everyone from there played this game in childhood,” Grewal said. “… They love it. It’s special. It’s a traditional game and they love to watch. And most of all, it’s a chance to get together.”

Sandhu estimates there are a few hundred people who play locally. The beauty of the game is that all you need is a field to play.

“This is the most popular game all over India. This is actually a traditional game, not a modern game,” said Sandhu.

“It has a long history, dating back hundreds of years. Now it’s played all over the world.”

The action goes from noon-8:30 p.m. and there is no admission cost.

“This is for everybody. Everyone is welcome here,” Grewal said. “This isn’t for one community, it’s for all Canadians.”

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...

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