The maximum city that is Dubai will get a taste of one of the greatest rivalries in sport – an India-Pakistan fixture – not once, but twice, when the Dubai Kabaddi Masters takes place at the Al Wasl Sports Club from Friday.
Top quality kabaddi makes its organized debut in Dubai and the Masters acts as a dry run for the Kabaddi World Cup to be held here in 2019. And the Dubai Sports Council (DSC), which is supporting the six-team tournament organised by the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) in partnership with Star India Pvt. Ltd, hopes it will provide the ideal platform to have a UAE team in the not too distant future.
“It is a historic day for kabaddi. The Kabaddi World Cup was held in Ahmedabad in 2016 and although the city isn’t a traditional stronghold, it was a tremendous response. And we hope to get the same kind of response with this event in Dubai. We have been fortunate to have the blessings of the Dubai Sports Council and one of the prospects, with their support, is to hold the Kabaddi World Cup in 2019,” Anupam Goswami, Secretary to the Kabaddi Masters Organising Committee and League Commissioner of the popular Pro Kabaddi League, said at a press conference on Wednesday.
“There is a huge appetite and competition in kabaddi and Dubai is a fantastic location for the sport. We are aware that there is a very big international event (the Fifa World Cup) but we slotted it consciously. We are doing this event to test an event here,” he added.
Meanwhile, Ghazi Al Madani, Sports Tourism Manager, DSC, said that kabaddi has huge potential in Dubai. “A legacy has been born again. We plan to have a new event in Dubai every year and this events shows a lot of potential. This event is the beginning of a long and strong relationship. It is only a step to follow another bigger step,” said Al Madani. “With this opportunity, it opens up things. This event is creating a path for the UAE. With the new Federal Law, the potential is there to have a UAE team in the future. When you create an event, you create a passion for it,” he added.
India coach Srinivas Reddy and captain Ajay Thakur were excited about the prospect of playing in Dubai as well as taking on Pakistan twice – on the opening day and then three days later. “It is a dream come true for players as well as me as a coach to play a tournament in Dubai. We are very excited that we are going to have an India-Pakistan fixture. Hopefully, we can win the match and go on and win the championship. Pakistan, Korea and Iran are strong contenders but teams like Argentina are getting strong,” said Reddy.
“We are quite excited to play here on such a platform. The first match between India and Pakistan will be a tough match. Such matches always have that edge about them and the confidence level goes up when you win a game like this,” Thakur said.
The tournament runs for nine days with the six teams divided into two groups. India, Pakistan and Kenya are in Group A, while Iran, Korea and Argentina are in Group B.