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Sunday, Oct 20, 2019

Foreign fans raid Pune stadium for taste of kabaddi magic

Local stadium. Indian sport. International lookout. Pro Kabaddi League 7 games have the city in raptures.

pune Updated: Sep 16, 2019 16:25 IST
Oumar Aga
Oumar Aga
Hindustan Times, Pune
(From left) Karola Rutten, Sam Lavers, Hinesh Amlani, Frank Angermann and Phil Underwood.
(From left) Karola Rutten, Sam Lavers, Hinesh Amlani, Frank Angermann and Phil Underwood.(MILIND SAURKAR/HT )

PUNE The Vivo Pro Kabaddi League returned to Pune on Saturday, at the Balewadi Sports Complex. Locals welcomed the competition’s seventh edition and the home team, Puneri Paltan, in a jam-packed, sold-out arena.

Puneri Paltan, who are struggling in the bottom-half of the table ousted Gujarat Fortunegiants 43-33.

While the arena was packed with local kabaddi enthusiasts, fans from Australia, England, France, Germany, Netherlands, and the United States, were part of the crowd that watched both the games that took place on Saturday.

Wearing caps bearing the Puneri Paltan crest, Frenchman Remi Martin and Paul May from USA, left the arena wearing big smiles on their faces.

“This was the first time I watched the game kabaddi and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is quite intense and physical, but I enjoyed watching the teams trying to get the better of each other whilst following all the proper rules and respecting the officials”, said Remi.

May, who is a big fan of American Football, added, “I came to know about the sport today, and I was intrigued to know more which is why we came to watch it. The physicality of the sport makes it interesting, exciting, and fun to watch.”

According to Remi, the players were very mature and their fairplay was commendable. “It was enjoyable to see the players being very honest and admitting that they were touched, instead of protesting profusely”, Remi mentioned. Remi and Paul arrived in India two months ago to work with Michelin Tyres.

Surprisingly, May and Remi were not the only out-of-towners present in the arena.

Phil Underwood, Frank Angermann, Karola Rutten and Sam Lavers arrived in Pune last week and were curious to discover kabaddi. Their colleagues, Arun Antony and Hinesh Amlani, accompanied them to the stadium for the opening two games of the Pune leg of the PKL.

Underwood, who hails from Essex, England, was impressed by the atmosphere which engulfed Balewadi. “It is an interesting sport. I had never seen it before. I knew nothing about it and did not know what to expect, but at the end of the day, all of us enjoyed it”, said Underwood. The only lady in the group is Karola Rutten and she arrived in Pune last week from the Netherlands.

“It was a wonderful experience to watch them in action. Hopefully, we can come back here to watch more games”, said Rutten.

“The experience tonight was really good. It is a very athletic sport. When I caught a glimpse of the players for the first time, I did not realise they would be so athletic and jump around, trying to kick the opponent. I think that was one of the key elements of the game,” is how Sam Lavers from Australia views it.

Joining these four individuals were Arun Antony and Hinesh Amlani. Amlani was born in England, but his his roots originate from Gujarat, which is why he was supporting Gujarat Fortunegiants.

Just like Amlani, Arun Antony was also inside the stadium. Antony arrived in Pune, from Chennai and was supporting Tamil Thalaivas, who were playing against Haryana Steelers. Just like his colleague, Amlani, Anthony’s favourite team also went down.

Surprisingly, it was the four foreigners who dragged the others to the stadium to watch the PKL.

“I am the host, but honestly they persuaded me to take them to this event,” Antony said.

First Published: Sep 16, 2019 16:21 IST

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