The ‘Kabaddi Daddy’ who took the sport beyond India
Aspiration and immense faith that the day will arrive. The day when the sun rises with flowers dancing with cherishes in the Kabaddi world, the day when Kabaddi becomes a part of the Olympics. Ashok Das is driven to turn his ambition into reality. It is the years of uncountable hardship that has turned football adoring nations like England, Poland, U.S., Argentina, Kenya, and Mexico be a part of our game of Kabaddi.
Ashok Das is the current acting president of World Kabaddi. He is the founder and president of the England Kabaddi Association (EKA). He has acted as the president of European Kabaddi. He still coaches the British Army Kabaddi Team with immense devotion towards the enrichment of the game in Europe where the game was once known as ‘Dabba’ Kabaddi.
Early years as a passionate Kabaddi player
Ashok was born in Kapurthala in a traditional Punjabi family. Back then Kabaddi was a game hidden under the shadows. Circle Kabaddi existed during those days, perhaps a cheerful way of spending leisure time. However, Ashok’s first love was Basketball. A sportive and light-hearted Ashok used to get his training back in Kapurthala during those days.
Just like how a regular morning practice would go, a 17-year-old Ashok was practicing his dribbles next to the place where the U-19 Kabaddi trials were going on. A coach named Satish came up to him and asked if he was interested in Kabaddi. Ashok accepted cheerfully. However, after the trials, the coach opted to keep Ashok out of his team that left Ashok dejected.
Back then, an eminent circle Kabaddi player named Sarban Bal saw Ashok’s passionate devotion towards the game. He was a coach of rectangular Kabaddi as well. With the expertise of Surban Bal, Ashok trained hard and played the under-50kg competition held in Andra Pradesh.
Ashok got selected to play at the national level and participated in the All India Nationals in Andra Pradesh as well as All India Rural Nationals held in Amritsar where he won a silver medal back then. He represented the Punjab Kabaddi National Team from 1978 to 1981.
When Birmingham witnessed Kabaddi for the first time
The history reads that National Kabaddi Association (NKA) formed in 1992 to promote both forms of the game (circular and rectangular). Ashok got married and settled in Birmingham, England. Back in 1993, Kabaddi inaugurated for the first time (U.K.) as International Kabaddi Tournament held in Birmingham from 22nd August to 30th August.
Teams such as Air India Kabaddi Team, Mahindra & Mahindra and other teams of India and Pakistan (6 teams in total) played where the U.K. players saw its demonstration. He met Arun Sawant, the then coach of Air India Kabaddi Team from where he got the spark. A spark that would revolutionize the game in all over the nations of Europe, Ashok was determined.
In collaboration with Arun Sawant, Ashok came back to India to study about Kabaddi techniques and created video documentaries on it. He created a series on ‘Kabaddi History & Techniques’ and diverted his knowledge to the Englishmen who adapted the game sincerely.
Forming EKA, 2004 Kabaddi World Cup and British Army Kabaddi Team
During the first ever 2004 Kabaddi World Cup held in Mumbai, 14 teams all around the world competed in the event. Arun Sawant asked Ashok Das to bring his team. The England Kabaddi Men’s Team knew about circle Kabaddi back then. Ashok decided to train his Englishmen and formed them as a collective unit to play in the standard style of World Cup.
Great Britain had a successful outing then. They beat teams like Malaysia (60-37) and Korea (54-49) to enter the quarterfinals. They lost the quarterfinals against Canada (66-28) but won the hearts of many Kabaddi lovers.
The British Army, newly introduced to Kabaddi displayed an eagerness to understand the culture and ethnicity of the game. Kabaddi, afterall, wasn’t just a game of big bulky hulk like raiders who dragged the defenders to the midline after all. Over the years, Kabaddi changed into its modern version which required mental strength alongside with agility and fast reflexes.
The Army’s head invited Ashok one day and asked him to train his students. Ashok on his own expenses covered the distance of around 180 plus kilometers and coached them to form the British Army Kabaddi Team.
The Rise of Britain Kabaddi
In the year 2007, the Indian Army competed against the British Army in a friendly Kabaddi match. It was the first time that they played in a friendly faceoff since India’s independence in 1947. The British Army lost to the Indian Army with a 2-point deficit.
Ashok recalls the nostalgia of the head of the Indian Army who wasn’t happy of Ashok taking our origin game to the Englishmen, came up to Ashok with a surprising smile on his face. He shook hands with Ashok and let him know that he had the utmost regard for what he had done.
The British Army Kabaddi Team traveled all around India in places like Amritsar and Bombay to play against Mumbai Police, Fire Brigade, and Railway Teams.
Ashok formed the European Kabaddi Federation with the assist of Italian Kabaddi Federation in October 2007. The British Army soldiers took part in the 2nd Kabaddi World Cup 2007 where they had displayed outstanding performance in such competitiveness.
England Women’s Kabaddi Team
As an Indian, it is the most obvious thing to get astonished when we see ‘Gori Mem‘ (foreign madams) play any sport. Jaw-drop turns reality especially if we see them play the game of soil, Kabaddi. Ashok Das is the first person who took the game outside of India and increased passion amongst the women.
The England Kabaddi women’s Team formed in 2009 where most of the women belonged from higher positions in the British Army. They beat the U.S. thrice in 2009, 2010 and 2011 in Kabaddi matches and trained under Ashok Das. Ashok took his team to play in different parts of India where almost 40,000 people turned up to see these women play on soil!
2016 Kabaddi World Cup
Ashok Das affiliated the Scottish, Wales and Polish Kabaddi Association to the IKF where he introduced how the nations had been adopting the game with eagerness and cheerfulness.
Only England and Poland were the two European nations that took part in the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup. As far as England is concerned, they had comprehensive wins against Australia (69-25) and Argentina (68-28). They faced against India (18-69) as well.
The newly elected President of World Kabaddi, Ashok still lives in Birmingham. Ashok resigned from International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) years ago. Ashok has been a runner-up in the BBC Midlands Unsung Hero of the year and Birmingham Sports Award as well. Ashok still trains the Warriors’ women’s team and runs workshops along with demonstration matches of both men’s and women’s.
Ashok has given years of his valuable time in broadening the game throughout the world. Kabaddi would still be a game hiding somewhere in the textbooks if Ashok hadn’t taken from its grassroots. Here’s wishing Ashok Das for the completion of his ultimate dream to see Kabaddi be a part of the Olympics one day.
Here’s an inspiration to the readers in Ashok sir’s words, “Don’t be a baddie, play Kabaddi!”
President – World Kabaddi
President – European Kabaddi
President & Founder – England Kabaddi