CHENNAI: Iran have been one of the strongest teams in kabaddi over the past decade, and have even come close to challenging India’s dominance a few times.
Despite these failures, Iran captian Meraj Sheykh is confident that his team can turn the tables on India — who will incidentally be the hosts — as the Kabaddi World Cup kicks off next week in Ahmedabad. “In the previous two World Cups, we finished runners-up. We lost both times to India. But, I’m a 100 per cent sure that we can reverse the tide this time. We have always been strong, and we have improved a lot. We have many youngsters whose energy will rub off well, along with the more-experienced players.”
When asked about what they had done to prepare for such a high-profile event, the 28-year-old said that it was a mixture of a lot of aspects. “During training, the players were coached on bodybuilding, sociology, swimming, and English. In addition, they were made to watch lots of practice clips and old match clips. Our coach (Kianoush Naderian) usually tries to know players from other countries and analyses them,” explained Meraj.
Iranian kabaddi is influenced a lot by wrestling, and Meraj feels that this has to do with the fact that both are simple games. “Kabaddi is a traditional game in Iran. It is simple and requires no money. But power and art are its main factors. It is similar to wrestling.
“Kabaddi is played at various levels. This game is known as Sherin Dou Dou in Gillan, and Zou in Khorasan, Golestan and Mazandaran. It is also known as Ash Te Te in the Khozistan Province, and finally as kabaddi in Sistan & Balochistan.”
Currently a part of Dabang Delhi in the Pro Kabaddi League, Meraj feels that the World Cup will only lead to more players from his nation entering the event. “Star players like Abozar Mohajer, Soleyman Pahlevan, Mohsen Maghsodlou, Abbas Koruki and Farhad Rahimi have not yet made their way into PKL.
I’m sure that they will be watched by all the franchises,” he said.
The World Cup, which will be held from October 7 to 22, will be live on the Star Sports network.