MUMBAI : Mashal Sports, the organisers of Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) on Thursday announced that they are exploring the launch of an annual professional league for women's kabaddi players on similar lines as the men's league, which is now in its 10th year.
The league is likely to be called the Women's Kabaddi League.
"Our plans for a professional women's kabaddi league are based on the success we have seen in the men's league and our commitment to grow kabaddi as a modern world-class sport from India. We will be working with our various stakeholders, including the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India (AKFI) and the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) to launch the women's league," said Anupam Goswami, CEO, Mashal Sports & League Commissioner, Pro Kabaddi League.
The proposed professional league for women will draw upon Mashal Sports' experience and learnings from the Women's Kabaddi Challenge, a three-team test tournament that Mashal had organised and conducted with the support and sanction of AKFI in 2016.
Kabaddi players who participated as members of the competing teams -- Firebirds, IceDivas and StormQueens --recall the Women's Kabaddi Challenge as the highest quality kabaddi tournament they had ever participated in.
"Ever since the launch of Pro Kabaddi league in 2014, women kabaddi players in India have aspired to a professional kabaddi league of their own. Now, a women's version of PKL will be a big dream come true for every woman kabaddi athlete in India, and also for women kabaddi athletes from other countries," said V Tejeswini Bai, who captained the winning Storm Queens team at the Women's Kabaddi Challenge in 2016, in a media release.
Tejeswini is part of the galaxy of Arjuna Award winning women kabaddi athletes in India, and also captained the Indian women's team the last time it won the gold medal at the Asian Games, at Incheon in 2014.
As per organisers, the views of India's leading women kabaddi players are seconded by India's leading male kabaddi players as well, particularly those who are recognized by millions of PKL fans as leading players of the men's league.
"Pro Kabaddi has transformed the lives and image of men kabaddi athletes across all of India. I know if Mashal Sports does a women's league, it will do the same for women kabaddi athletes," said Ajay Thakur, former India captain who has also been awarded the Arjuna Award and the Padma Shri. T
Thakur's views are seconded by Pardeep Narwal, the iconic highest point-scoring raider from Pro Kabaddi.
"The quality and popularity of Pro Kabaddi League has enabled us to acquire pride and respect as kabaddi players. I know that a women's PKL will guarantee the same recognition and reward for our women athletes," he said.
As traditional and long-standing a sport as kabaddi is, it began gaining traction in recent years after the launch of the Pro Kabaddi League in 2014. Season nine of PKL attracted cumulative viewership of 222 million on Star Sports, the official broadcaster of PKL and reached millions of viewers through Disney+ Hotstar.
The play-offs and final of Season 9 saw a cumulative reach of 66 million, a 32 percent increase over the previous season.