Varun Tiwari with permission for Varsity

A group of Cambridge students have come together to make kabaddi an official sport of the University. Kabaddi is an ancient Indian team sport which involves two teams on a pitch (similar in size to a badminton court) each team taking turns ‘raiding’. A raid involves entering the other team’s side and trying to tag them and then getting back to your side. However, once contact between the raider and the opposition has been initiated they are open to be tackled. If a player is tackled, then they are out, but if they make it back to their side, then whoever they were tagged by is out. Every time a successful tackle or tag is made, whichever team wins the points will also revive players equal to the number of points they receive. These fast paced, action packed rules have led to kabaddi becoming the national sport of Bangladesh while also being the second most watched sport in India.

The club holds two-hour training sessions every week, with sessions for both men and women available. On top of these training sessions, they play in four tournaments during the year. Two are organised by the England Kabaddi Union and two more are organised as part of an external sports day held by NHSF (National Hindu Students Forum), of which one is regional (playing teams such as Manchester, Warwick and York) and one is national (playing regional teams as well as Imperial, KCL, and LSE). Prior to becoming an official University sports club, the men’s team reached the semi-finals of this year’s national tournament.

Keen to welcome first-time players, the club openly expresses how kabaddi is a sport where there aren’t high barriers to entry. Outgoing president of the CUKAC Varun Tiwari told Varsity: “People often think since it is a contact sport, being bigger is always better and they couldn’t be more wrong! The smallest players are often more agile meaning they can quickly escape tackles and get a cheeky point! Also, we are a small community and for that reason we are very welcoming to new players and old players alike!” He also spoke about the collective effort that has facilitated bringing kabaddi to the University of Cambridge. The process involved much paperwork, health and safety training and other administrative tasks and relied solely upon the work of students. Supporting Tiwari throughout was Lalit Basur (men’s captain), Anjali Rao (women’s captain), Krish Agarwal (junior treasurer) and Karthik Sadanand (secretary).


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Speaking on why he loves the sport, Tiwari said: “It’s a fast paced, high energy contact sport that is easy to pick up. You never know what’s going to happen; will the raider tap a defender first with a kick or a toe touch, or will a defender quickly sneak up behind the raider and make a tackle? All this repeats every 30 seconds, meaning that there is always something interesting going on the pitch!”

Anyone wishing to get involved in kabaddi is recommended to follow their official Instagram (@cukabaddiclub) where they can find details on how to do so.