New Delhi: Pakistan were crowned Kabaddi World Cup champions on Sunday after narrowly beating an 'unofficial team' of arch-rivals India in the final, fighting back in the second half to secure a 43-41 win in front of thousands of spectators in Lahore.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter to congratulate the team on the victory: "Congratulations to the Pakistan Kabbadi team for winning the Kabbadi World Cup after defeating India."
Congratulations to the Pakistan Kabbadi team for winning the Kabbadi World Cup after defeating India. — Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) February 17, 2020
The tournament itself was mired in controversy even before the start. Around 45 players accompanied by a group of some 12 officials and coaches had travelled to Pakistan without any official permission or clearance from the Indian government to participate in the tournament called 'Kabaddi World Cup'.
The 'Indian' contingent had reached Lahore last Saturday via the Wagah Border. Pictures and footage of the Indians arriving in Lahore had surfaced on social media platforms, kicking up a storm.
Last week, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju had said no Kabaddi player for India had been given permission to participate.
However, the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI) made it clear that it has not sanctioned any Kabaddi team's visit to Pakistan for a tournament and asked the Pakistan Federation to not allow the team to use 'India' on their jersey or tracksuits.
Pictures from the event showed that the victorious Pakistan team did play a team bearing the word 'India' across their chest.
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) also said on Monday it did not sanction any Kabaddi team's visit to Pakistan for a tournament.
Pakistan Amateur Circle Kabaddi Federation (PACKF) had also claimed that many Indian players were competing for teams of other participating countries such as Australia, England and Canada.
The World Kabaddi Federation last Monday had clarified that the World Championship is "unauthorised" and "no institution will officially recognise the certificate" of the meet.
The championships are played in the 'traditional' circle format while the national-style Kabaddi is recognised by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), the Olympic Council of Asia and is the format in which the Asian Games are played. In the circle (traditional) format, teams have eight players and the field of play is a circle.
The Pakistan team was awarded prize money of Rs 10 million for winning, while the runners-up pocketed a purse of Rs 7.5 million.
"We are grateful to all the nations which made this event colourful," Rana Muhammad Sarwar, the secretary general of the Pakistan kabaddi federation, told AFP.
"We should not let sports and culture become a victim of politics."
There has been a ban on sporting ties between the two neighbouring countries with India cutting bilateral cricket ties with Pakistan after attacks in Mumbai in 2008.
India has since ordered a general freeze on sporting contacts, and last year a Davis Cup tennis tie between the two nations was shifted out of Pakistan to Kazakhstan.
(With inputs from Agencies)