Three prominent persons connected closely with kabaddi feel that the sport winning Indias top sports awards recently means that it was being recognised at the highest level. Current India captain Deepak Hooda, who won the Arjuna Award, Dronacharya Award (Lifetime) winner former India coach Krishan Kumar Hooda, and Manpreet Singh, won the Dhyan Chand Award, have emphasised this.
"Kabaddi players and coaches were one of the few in the list for the awards that play a sport which is not part of the Olympics. It shows that the sport is being recognised," Deepak told IANS. "Apart from this, Pro Kabaddi always draws a lot of attention. Globally, other countries are getting better. So, I think it is only a matter of time before kabaddi reaches the Olympics."
The improving standards of other countries in comparison with India could be seen during the 2018 Asian Games. India had failed to reach the men's kabaddi final for the first time since the sport was included in the Asian Games, in 1990, after a defeat to Iran. Thus ended India's monopoly of winning gold.
"A sport evolves only when other countries also improve. It is only when multiple countries compete well that kabaddi will reach the Olympics. So, it is good that countries like South Korea and Iran are playing well and winning medals. We have some good young players coming through, so it is looking good for us," said Deepak.
Krishan, who was men's team coach between 1999 and 2001, said that the stature of kabadddi players back then could not be compared with the present lot. "Back then we would arrive at the airport and come straight back home without anybody even taking notice. That is not the case now. Pro Kabaddi has a big role to play in the game getting the sort of popularity it has now. There are academies and grounds cropping up in a lot of places. The difference between what was the case in 1999 and now is that of day and night," he said.
For Deepak, winning the Arjuna was always a mark of success. "When I first started playing kabaddi, my ambition was to play for India," he said. "It was later that I saw that the likes of Rakesh Kumar and Anup Kumar winning Arjuna Awards for their achievements. I realised how big these awards are and decided that I would be truly successful only after I win the Arjuna. A lot of respect comes with these awards, so I worked harder to win it."
After being named in the winners' list, Manpreet had said that he had waited for many years for recognition. After winning the World Cup in 2007, he had applied for the Arjuna Award, but his application was rejected.