12/01/2022
Star Kabaddi player Pawan Sehrawat and Anupam Goswami, Head Sports Leagues, Mashal Sports and League Commissioner, Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), talk about the growing ecosystem for kabaddi and its journey from indigenous to international.

Sehrawat was purchased by Tamil Thalaivas during the PKL Season 9 auction earlier this year and became the most expensive player in the history of the league by fetching a bid worth Rs 2.26 crore.

Sehrawat – who is missing the ongoing PKL 2022 season due to injury – credits the PKL for changing the lives of so many kabaddi players. Sehrawat said, “People know kabaddi now thanks to how it has adapted to be seen and loved by many. This was a sport played on mud first, now PKL has taken the game to another level. With the sport being broadcast, players like me are getting financially independent and recognised, and our fitness levels are growing due to the nature of the sport and league. Our motivation is to do well from season to season in the league.”

“Kabaddi has been a sport everyone has played but to think that for this sport to make an athlete economically independent has been made possible through the vivo Pro Kabaddi League. Players are now getting a chance to work with brands. Small children are now joining academies across the country. The league has played a big role in showcasing the sport in this way and in turn taking it from the roots of India and growing it worldwide.

“Playing Kabaddi has now become an accepted profession and when I say I play at the Pro Kabaddi League I feel proud,” the raider concluded.

Sehrawat isn’t wrong in his opinion. If an athlete claims that he is playing in a professional league like the PKL; he is not scoffed upon, in fact, he is treated with respect and adulation.

Only over a decade ago, the same athlete would be questioned about what they would need to do as a serious profession since playing the sport would not be considered as a viable option. This is the role broadcast and digital media can play to take sport and put it across to an audience to make it aspirational, make stars out of athletes and in turn grow the sports ecosystem in the country.

Anupam Goswami – Head Sports Leagues, Mashal Sports and League Commissioner of PKL – claims the overall commercial viability of sports worldwide and broadcast play a critical role to build mass brands. It brings in sponsors and develops a successful model for sports to thrive tricking down as measurable benefit to the athletes and growth of our sporting talent pool.

Goswami says, “The sports ecosystem consists of different elements that draw from each other. Our ecosystem for Pro Kabaddi has four constituents on a league level. The most important role of a broadcaster is bringing the fan to the core of this ecosystem. There is no sport without consumers and fans. What we do to engage with the fans, is ensure the quality of competition is at a benchmark level. One of the reasons for Pro Kabaddi’s success is that we are the highest level of Kabaddi in the world. Once we get the competition of this order, we naturally attract athletes of the highest quality. Every kabaddi player in the world wants to play in the league. Regularly the highest-paid athlete outside cricket is from Pro Kabaddi.”

He further added, “What works well at Pro Kabaddi is our athlete development program. Our broadcasters create heroes. Sequentially it inspires the next generation of fans to take to the sport and it convinces parents to invest in their child’s future in the sport. Once we have high-quality competition, we need financial and institutional sustainability as well as good governance. All this builds our ecosystem and gives a strong leeway to grassroots initiatives. Kabaddi academies, across large belts of India, are rapidly developing with children joining from a young age. There is a growing proliferation of kabaddi tournaments across the grassroots which is a healthy sign. The engagement of spectators and fans has also grown drastically. All this contributes towards the growth of the sport both in the domestic and international arena.”

Season 9 of the PKL is being broadcast live on the Star Sports Network and Disney+ Hotstar from 7:30 PM onwards every day.