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Sport where exhaling is against the rules considered for Oympics

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Last week, as some may recall, I introduced the sport of Russian Slap Fighting and suggested it could be an indoor sport to help pass the time while sheltering in place.

I doubt anyone gave it a try (conclusion reached after studying police incident reports). If anyone did try it … well, I’m concerned, but I also can’t wait for the videos to be posted.

Now to introduce another obscure contact sport – well, if you can call a sport played and enjoyed by tens of million Asians “obscure.”

(Again, I was clued in to this sport by my friend who apparently has sympathy for me because I remain in journalism while she chose marketing, P.R. and editing a national trade publication.)

It’s called “Kabaddi.” Created in India, it is the national sport of Bangladesh. Kabaddj is part of the Asian Games and could be coming to an Olympics watched by you in the future.

It resembles an elaborate game of “tag”: two seven-player teams on a court divided into two halves. One member of each team, called the “Raider,” take turns entering the opponent’s side of the field and attempts to tag out as many defenders as possible in 30 seconds before returning to their own side.

The “raider” must avoid being tackled by defenders while he is “raiding.” Points are awarded when a player is tagged, and for stopping a raider through tackling or evading him for the whole 30 seconds.

Players who are tagged or tackled leave the game, but may return when their team scores a point.

Courts are usually 33 and 43 feet (26 feet by 39 feet for women), so it may be a tad large for most backyards in this area. Maybe it could finally be a use for that open ground at the corner of Merritt Boulevard and Wise Avenue.

Finally, Kabaddi has a twist: the Raider cannot breathe while attempting to tag opponents; the Raider must constantly chant “kabaddi” to show officials they’re not taking a breath.

No exhaling. See? It’s the perfect sport during a pandemic that can be spread by air. If not for, you know, the tackling and the tagging.

As for that tackling and tagging: I watched videos of a few Kabaddi matches, and I can’t figure it out: there are seven defenders and one raider, and the raider must tag the defenders before being tackled.

You would think, with a 7-to-1 advantage, the defenders would flatten the raider within seconds. But in the clips I’ve watched, the seven defenders – with three pairs holding hands, which the rules I found online do not explain – just sort of dance around the raider, feinting and dodging.

I’m curious to find a video of an American team (and there are American teams) playing Kabaddi. I would imagine they’re much more aggressive in tackling.

(A while back, I interviewed an English rugby player, the captain of a visiting Cambridge team. One quote I remember: “Americans tend to tackle higher and hit harder, no doubt due to the influence of American football. It’s not fun being tackled by Americans.”)

So, as mentioned, India and other Asian nations are applying for Kabaddi to become an Olympic Sport. There’s a Kabaddi World Cup, it’s in the Asian Games, and there are several professional leagues and a world championship tournament.

No offense intended to anyone, because I like some sports others would find dull, and this is only my opinion, but … as I said, it’s just an elaborate game of tag, with the “no breathing” aspect thrown in there to make it stand apart.

In the videos I watched online, it was a bunch of guys shuffling around each other, one continually chanting “Kabaddi,” until one player lunged to tag another, or a couple of players would dive to knock the chanting guy down.

As a sportswriter, it looks … not that interesting ...to cover.

Then again, the Pro Kabaddi League was watched by 435 million television viewers in India during its inaugural season, and the first championship match was watched by 98.6 million, and it’s a popular sport for a significant chunk of the world, so … I could be wrong.

Besides, it’s another sport that requires no equipment at all. Except chalk, to lay out the court boundaries. Forgot to mention – stepping outside the court leads to being removed from the game as if they were tagged.

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