Call it craze for kabaddi among Punjabis from the rural areas or their curiosity to watch foreigners, especially women, playing the typical Punjabi game, throngs of spectators were witnessed at matches during the third edition of Kabaddi World Cup at War Heroes Stadium here on Thursday.
When women teams from Turkmenistan, Denmark and United States of America showcased their kabaddi skills, the stadium was jampacked with enthusiastic audience, both young and old alike.
Due to shortage of seating arrangements, people could be seen perched on every available space, including fire tender and school buses, so as not to miss even a single match.
Spectators lustily cheered visiting women players for every point they scored, shook hands and posed for photographs with them.
"It was an awesome feeling to see thousands of people motivating and cheering for us. Though playing in front of such huge crowd made us nervous many times, but at the same time, cheers from the crowd made is strive hard for victory," said a US team member Natalia Marmolejo.
Interestingly, the match between Afghanistan and India in the men's category witnessed a thin crowd as spectators began streaming out of the match venue after the women's kabaddi matches.
Meanwhile, tight security arrangements were made and all roads leading to the venue were cordoned off by heavy police force to avoid any untoward incident since deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal was the chief guest of the day.
Kabaddi component in new sports policy: Sukhbir
Addressing the gathering at the stadium, deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal announced that the Punjab government would include a 'special kabaddi component' in the new sports policy to be implemented soon.
Sukhbir said that the government had decided to give impetus to promotion of kabaddi among young persons.
He reiterated his resolve to take kabaddi to the international level. "Kabaddi is becoming popular day by day not only in Punjab but also in countries in other continents. The day is not far when Punjab will be a leader in world sports arena," the deputy CM said.
He said that after kabaddi, hockey and wrestling events would be organised at district level to promote both the sports.
Badal also announced a new stadium at Sangrur with seating capacity of 25,000 replete with facilities like floodlights and modern infrastructure.
Meanwhile, Indian Olympics Committee (IOC) vice-president Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa announced that efforts were on to ensure introduction of kabaddi in Asian Games and Olympics. However, the first step would be to ensure introduction of kabaddi in the National Games, he added.
Indian women kabaddi team too clears dope test
Indian women kabaddi team comprising 19 players has cleared the dope test conducted by National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) before the start of tournament.
Punjab Kabaddi Association president Sikander Singh Maluka said that 26 of the 27 Indian men's team members too have been cleared. The result of one player from the Indian men's team is awaited. Meanwhile, NADA team failed to turn up at match venue on Thursday.