Rise of Kabaddi in Australia
The Indian Kabaddi is now a new phenomenon in the Australian sporting world
The Australian National Kabaddi team
When it comes to the India-Australia relationship, cultural exchange is vastly defined by the mutual love that these two countries hold for sports, especially cricket. Cricket has, in a way, formed the backbone on which the soft power potential of India and Australia was built over the past few years. However, this love for sports is not just limited to cricket.
The last few years have carved a special place in the history of the development of India-Australia ties. One major upside of engaging deeply with different traditions across the two countries is that the cultural vocabulary has improved on both sides. This translates into sports as well which is very evident in Australia’s improving interest in India’s traditional sport, Kabaddi.
Much like the interest in the Australian community, Kabaddi in itself has garnered international attention only in the recent past. The Pro Kabaddi League in India has become a major event in terms of providing an international space while also improving the viewership of the sport at home. Even though the Kabaddi World Cup was established back in 2004, it is only recently that the sport has occupied the status of an important cultural export on the part of India. The mutual love for sports that Indians and Australians share makes it the most significant relationship to be impacted by this rapidly growing Kabaddi phenomenon.
Role of organisations
The surge of the Indian diaspora in Australia over the past few years has been the defining factor in the development of stronger cultural ties between the two countries. A major outcome of a growing Indian origin community in Australia is the fact that Australians are much more aware of the Indian cultural traditions now more than ever and this goes well beyond just the Indian cuisine or the game of cricket. Talking about the importance of sports diplomacy in invoking the spirit of brotherhood and partnership between India and Australia, the newest sport to be added to the tradition is Kabaddi.
It was November last year that the Labour government in Melbourne declared the hosting of a Kabaddi exhibition match as the country prepares for the 2026 Commonwealth Games to be held in Victoria, Australia. The idea is to not just celebrate the multicultural nature of the Australian society, of which the Indian diaspora forms an integral part but to also allow the Australians to become acquainted with the sport even more.
Organisations like the Australian Sikh Games have also played an important part in developing a culture of such sports by organising regular sporting events around different regions across Australia. The plethora of gaming events also include Kabaddi matches which showcase the spirit of the game that primarily originated in North India. The organisation has around a hundred Australian clubs and eleven international clubs registered under. The organisation works under the aegis of the Australian National Sikh Sports and Cultural Council (ANSSACC).
Kabaddi Australia, the premier association for the game in Australia also plays a major role in spreading the spirit of the game not just in the country but also internationally. The recent significant event hosted by Kabaddi Australia was the 2022 Australia Kabaddi Cup in November where teams from various countries took active part.
A dynamic start
It is without a doubt very clear that the Australian government has taken a keen interest in promoting the sport and encouraging the establishment of more clubs and teams across the country. The last few years have provided a strong impetus to the development of Kabaddi in the mainstream Australian sporting vocabulary.
A lot however, remains to be achieved in terms of bringing Kabaddi to the stature of international sports but the growing interest in Australia provides this opportunity. Australia has taken the initiative of hosting Kabaddi competitions which will in time as its popularity increases translate into economic and cultural value for the country. Even though there is a lack of infrastructure at this early stage of the sport, the Australian Kabaddi team have risen to the challenges in a show of sportsmanship and enthusiasm for the game. However, there could be merit in investing more in terms of sporting infrastructure, funding central government scholarships for distinguished players, providing suitable stadiums and practice spaces for the national team and also engaging in building capacity by cooperating with India on enhancing sports technology which could include cricket, Kabaddi and many other sports.
The initiative from both the Australian and the Indian governments over the last decade to categorically improve bilateral relations and expand on the shared vision of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific has contributed towards such unique cooperation. Focussed engagement has resulted in direct influence over very niche sports like Kabaddi and has opened opportunities for further engagement.