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British prisons take to Indian sport

The Indian sport 'Kabaddi' is being played with enthusiasm in UK prisons to foster better relations between Asian and non-Asian inmates.

india Updated: Nov 13, 2006 16:18 IST

The quintessential Indian sport of kabaddi is being played with enthusiasm in British prisons, to foster better relations between young inmates of different backgrounds - Asian and non-Asian.

Not many have heard of the game in Britain, but what started as a sport between prisoners of Asian origin two years ago in the Deerbolt Young Offenders Institution in County Durham, north England, is now set to catch on.

Reports from Durham say that the idea to begin kabaddi in the prison was discussed when Asian inmates did not show much interest in playing traditional British sports such as basketball or football.

They asked physical education officer Dave Glendinning if they could play kabaddi and he agreed. He has since been asked by several black and white inmates to join.

Glendinning told Asian Image, a Lancashire-based publication: "Kabaddi was initially set up as a trial. But we'll keep it going because the lads love it and it seems to be doing some good.

"We've now got lads from different backgrounds and ethnic groups coming together and working as a team, and enjoying themselves too. I think, traditionally, the raiders are meant to say 'kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi' over and over again, but the lads weren't keen on that so we give them 15 seconds."

Glendinning has been awarded a prize for working with young people at the Prison Officer of the Year Awards in June, for using the kabaddi sessions as a basis for improving race relations in Deerbolt.

Said Zain, a race relations representative in the prison who helped set the kabaddi sessions: "We didn't really have anything to play, so we asked the officers if we could do kabaddi and they said 'yes'. It's great because you get to mix with people and everyone seems to enjoy it.

"You can get trouble with people from different areas, so you have to be careful that you don't get a five-a-side football game with a team from Liverpool playing a team from Newcastle, because then that can turn into something else.

"So when we play kabaddi, we make sure the teams are mixed up, with people from all areas of the country and all ethnic groups. They work together as a team and really get on."

After a session, Scott, an inmate at Deerbolt, said: "I didn't even know what kabaddi was. A lot of the lads play football or basketball, or some use the gym, but playing kabaddi is great because you get to talk to some lads that you wouldn't normally talk to. I'll definitely play it again - I really enjoyed it."

The game is expected to gain popularity in other British prisons, particularly in those with a good number of prisoners of Asian origin.

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