Believe It Or Not: Indian Kabbadi Teams Return Without A Gold Medal From Asian Games As Iran Emerges SupremeIndian captain Ajay Thakur. (pic via Twitter)

Iran has put an end to India’s dominance in the sport of kabbadi in both men’s and women’s competition. On Thursday (23 August), Iranian men defeated Indian men 27-18 in the semi-finals and booked a spot in the finals against South Korea. In the league phase of the competition, India lost to South Korea 23-24, raising concerns over its dominance. South Korea had earlier defeated India in the league phase of World Championships in 2016.

Indian men have won the kabaddi gold seven times before returning with a bronze medal this time. Even before the team could depart for Indonesia for the Games, Indian players had acknowledged that Iran was the team to fear, given its rapid rise in the sport. A special thrust has been given in Iran for the game.

To rub salt into its wounds, Indian women were defeated in the final by their Iranian counterparts 24-27. There were no signs of the impending danger when India took a 13-9 lead soon after being ahead 11-9 at half-time. In its live report of the final, Hindi daily Amar Ujala reported that bad umpiring cost the Indian women at least five points. Twitterati called out the bad umpiring and appealed for the integration of technology into the sport.

But psephologist Yashwant Deshmukh tweeted that Iran was precise and well-prepared for India. He said the Indian Kabaddi camp should wake up from its “arrogant lousiness”. The problem with the Indian kabaddi team was that 12 of the 14 were playing their first Asiad, while at least two deserving defenders - Surjeet Singh and Surender Nada- were omitted.

Iran’s success can be attributed to its officials looking for players with wrestling and martial arts background. The country now had depth and launches a youth programme every month to find new talents.

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