High on grip, low on weight. That, in essence, is the kabaddi shoe. Think Onitsuka Tiger, once the staple of PT Usha and the entire Asian athletic scene, and a pop culture icon after being used by Bruce Lee, and then by Uma Thurman in ‘Kill Bill’. (More Sports News)
Kabaddi was the headline act on Monday, September 26, at the 36th National Games in Ahmedabad. Matches got underway at the EKA TransStadia Indoor Stadium in Ahmedabad at 5pm. The accompanying sounds were eclectic. Dholak players in ethnic finery welcomed the players.
Teammates cheered when the chosen seven walked on to the purple and yellow mat, the colours bringing to mind the Los Angeles Lakers uniform. The referees blew their whistles. And every now and then, a flock of pigeons would flap around the stadium’s rafters.
Among the winners on the day were the Maharashtra men’s and women’s teams. Hosts Gujarat also won in the men’s competition.
The Maharashtra girls surprised National Champions Himachal Pradesh, holding their nerve to win 32-31. The men routed Tamil Nadu 49-25. Local boys Gujarat upset Goa 56-27. Late in the evening, Services crushed Chandigarh 66-32.
In between matches, some of the players spoke about their footwear, among other things.
Surender Nada, a World Cup winner and Haryana Steelers star, said he carries a couple of pairs to games.
“Some shoes may last a few months, some may last a day, so you never know,” said the left corner defender. “These are mat shoes, very different from usual running shoes. They are soft and light.”
Maharashtra captain Shankar Gadai discussed the challenge of matching the shoe with the surface. “If either the shoe or the mat are very new, it gets slippery for a player,” he said. “Shoes need just the right amount of breaking in. I prefer to wear a new pair a couple of times in practice before I wear it in a match.”
Gadai’s teammate Rahul Khatik, when asked if kabaddi shoes were similar to boxing ones, said, “Kabaddi shoes have a lot more grip. I would say they are quite different.”
As for his favourite colour for his kicks, Khatik said, with a smile, “It’s whatever the team decides. Right now, it’s blue.”
A player’s position determines the workload on his or her footwear. “Raiders wear out their shoes much quicker,” said Maharashtra’s Mayur Kadam.
Even in the era of indoor kabaddi on mat surfaces, players still often play on natural soil, where they tend to play barefoot. “There are two different surfaces but you adjust, of course,” said Kadam.
Shoes, aside, the players shared some details about match preparation. How far kabaddi has come as a sport shows in the fact that teams have modern techniques of preparation, including video analysis. Players also know the importance of nutrition, and when to eat carbs and when to focus on protein.
“We usually have a meeting, with video analysis, the day before a game,” said Khatik. “On match days, we relax, eat light but nutritious food, and drink lots of water, about six litres of it.”
We’ve heard that one about genius being one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. Add hydration to that mix, and shoes too.