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Weekly Pullouts » Haryana Tribune

Posted at: Jun 9, 2018, 11:46 AM; last updated: Jun 9, 2018, 11:46 AM (IST)

Haryana players lead kabaddi’s gold rush

Haryana players lead kabaddi’s gold rush
Monu Goyat (in green) was bought for Rs 1.51 crore at the recent PKL auction. Photo courtesy PKL

Vinayak Padmadeo

“I’m practising, but I’ll click some photographs myself send them across,” says Monu Goyat from Hisar. “Don’t worry, the pictures will be alright... I’ll click them with my iPhone!”

Around three years ago, Goyat, who hails from Kungar village of Bhiwani district, had no iPhone; he didn’t have even a vehicle. Life was tough. His father, Rambhagat Singh, had quit farming; elder brother Virender had an M Tech degree but no job. Goyat’s job with the Services was just about enough to sustain the family. But life turned around three years ago when he was signed by Bengal Warriors in the Professional Kabaddi League (PKL). His fee? Rs 18 Lakh.

On May 30, the 25-year-old became the league’s costliest-ever player when Haryana Steelers splashed a mind-boggling Rs 1.51 crore on the raider at the player auction for the PKL’s sixth season. Goyat had played for Patna Pirates last year. “The only things I bought from this amount is kabaddi boots and a few other sporting articles,” he says. “The rest went in the repair of my house at Hansi in Hisar district”.

He’s got a new Hyundai SUV too, bankrolled from his PKL-5 fee of Rs 48 lakh. This year’s fee will be spent on the family. Rohtak’s Deepak Hooda, bought by Jaipur Pink Panthers for Rs 1.15 crore, has a similar story.

Tough life

Hooda has had a hard life. Orphaned at a young age, Hooda had to quit education midway. He started working as a farmhand, also teaching English and math at a primary level in a private school. He had the added responsibility of looking after his sister and her two children.

“I used to get up very early and practise till 6 am,” says Hooda, 23.  “I’d then teach at a private school. I’d return home for lunch and then immediately go to the farms to work. There were days I could sleep only for two-three hours”.

“But since I have become a known player, getting photographed with strangers 20-30 times a day is normal. It feels good,” says Hooda, who plans to use Rs 1.15 crore to construct a house in Rohtak city.

Before last year, top raider Pradeep Narwal (Patna Pirates, Rs 57 lakh) had never played under the lights. “It was his first PKL season. He and Rakesh Narwal were very nervous when they learnt they were playing under lights,” Bengaluru Bulls coach and Arjuna Award winner Randhir Singh says. “While travelling, Pradeep got scared when he got a window seat on an airplane! They hadn’t travelled by even Shatabdi or Rajdhani trains. Now they are big stars”.

Kabaddi hotbed

For long, Haryana’s players have formed the core of the Indian team that has always won the Asian Games gold. No surprise, then, that 10 players from Haryana are among the 15 most expensive players of the PKL-6.

“Almost 60 per cent of the teams in Railways, Services or ONGC comprise players from Haryana. The Indian camp has the same ratio,” Indian coach Rambir Khokhar said.

PKL has added to the kabaddi craze in the state. “During our times, the focus was to play for India and get jobs,” Hooda says. “To earn a crore was unthinkable. Now, we have this opportunity to make good money, and this is attracting today’s youth towards kabaddi”.

Betting on Haryana

Some PKL teams are betting on unheralded Haryana players, hoping they’d become big names soon. Bulls signed Haryana raiders Sumit and Anil for a total of Rs 16 lakh, and Bawana’s Amit Sheoran and Sumit Singh for Rs 8 lakh each. “Haryana players are better when it comes to strength and technique,” says coach Randhir Singh. He’s sure kabaddi will create more Haryanvi crorepatis.

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