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Indian Expertise & Coaches Behind Iran’s Gold Medal Heist Against India in Women’s Kabaddi

In the space of two days, Iran did the double on India, as both their men’s and women’s teams beat the defending Asian Games champions.

Suyash Upadhyaya |

Updated:August 24, 2018, 8:36 PM IST
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Indian Expertise & Coaches Behind Iran’s Gold Medal Heist Against India in Women’s Kabaddi
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In the space of two days, Iran did the double on India, as both their men’s and women’s teams beat the defending Asian Games champions.

The influx of Iranian players in the Pro Kabaddi League has seen them learn more than a few trade secrets of the Indians by now. But for the women, it looks like the opposite holds true. If Iran can’t come to India, India will go to Iran, suggests ex-Indian women’s team captain Mamta Poojary.

Poojary led the team to the Asiad gold in 2014, where they incidentally beat Iran in the final. The Iranian women are physically stronger, and their bodies suit a sport like kabaddi, she says. But their biggest weapon is an Indian coach, Maharashtra’s Shailaja Jain.

“We call her Jain Ma’am,” Poojary says. Jain has never coached the Indian women’s team, but is a familiar figure in India’s kabaddi circles. She isn’t the first Indian to coach a kabaddi team from Iran. “I was a part of the Indian team during the 2008 Asian Championships in Madurai as well, and I remember that Indian coach Elphas Raani was the coach of the Iranian women’s team,” Poojary says. “They call Indian coaches and get training from them. They are using our resources, and then also their own expertise, so it’s a combination of both. I also think that maybe the Iranian men’s players go back and teach the women a thing or two.”

But Iran also won the final because of better tactics. “Our team had trained well,” says former player Tejaswini Bai. “But we need to see the match situation and then plan strategies. Also there are many juniors in the team and they need guidance from the seniors.”

Three members of the Iranian women’s team were playing their third Asian Games. And that seems to have played a role too.

“The Iranian women’s team hardly gets any exposure. Even when they play kabaddi, you can see how they’re covered from head to toe with only their face visible,” says Mamta Poojary. “Despite that, they play so well. They’re very powerful, very strong and have a great diet. They practiced all this while for this moment.”

It would be safe to say that the Iranians looked more aggressive of the two sides from the word go, and that’s something the Indian women need to work on.

“I still can’t process the team’s loss, but it is over now. Now it’s about looking ahead,” signs off the former captain.

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| Edited by: Suyash Upadhyaya
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