Sikh soccer coach puts together Kiwi team of Maori eves

Patiala, Punjab: The New Zealand women kabaddi team participating in the World Cup for the first time is composed entirely of players of Maori descent. In most other countries, the Punjabi community has taken the lead in popularising kabaddi by engaging “local” (non-Indian) players. But in case of New Zealand women, the locals have taken to kabaddi with greater enthusiasm than Indian girls.

Most of the New Zealand team members have been in sports such as rugby and soccer. They got interested in kabaddi after watching game videos online. They have been trained in kabaddi by Indian-origin coach Tara Singh. The women, who have been undergoing training for around 10 months, have taken up the challenge of competing in the World Cup despite having very little experience.

Coach Tara Singh said he had been a football coach for the past 15 years at the Auckland Lions Sports Club. When the New Zealand Federation approached him to prepare a women’s kabaddi team, he happily took up the challenge.

“I didn’t have much knowledge about the rules and regulations of kabaddi.

I started training these girls almost 10 months ago taking the help of the Internet,” he said. “The results were remarkable. The New Zealand girls are much taller and robust than the Indian women and therefore we thought their body type would be perfect for the sport. However, the important thing was how to convince the girls to take up this game,” he added.

“I contacted Selwvm Teua Numia (now team manager), who somehow convinced girls playing various other sports, including rugby and soccer, to try kabaddi and now they are totally in love with the game,” he said.

“As far as the strength is concerned, we know we have no match, but we are here to see how much skills we have acquired,” said Rawinia Everitt, a member of the team. “We will take everything in our stride. The only thing we can say is that we are going to give our 100 per cent. Our opponents in the tournament are not going to have it easy!”

Another player, Deidre Otene, said they had never heard of kabaddi before and took up the sport only for fun. However, it was surprising to see that the game was so popular. “Though the game is slowly picking up in New Zealand, it is amazing to see the response to this game in India. I am looking forward to continuing with kabaddi and thus crate a niche for myself,” she added.

Numia, the team’s manager, said the best part about the New Zealand players was that they played every sport with free mind because they knew the government was always there to support them.

The team didn’t do too well in their first match and lost to India in a one-sided encounter. However, their main aim is to gain some experience so that they can return much stronger next year.

Source: The Tribune

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