Popular Indian sport of kabaddi returns to Fresno for tournament

Wrestlers from three continents will converge at Chukchansi Park on Sunday for the 2016 International Kabaddi Cup in downtown Fresno.

It’s a popular international sport that has brought teams from India, England and Canada as well as from across the U.S. to Fresno since the 1980s, according to Rajdeep Sandhu, one of the event’s organizers.

Previous tournaments have been held at Lamonica Stadium, Sunnyside High School and Bulldog Stadium, where crowds of nearly 20,000 people would watch the sport. Last year, about 8,000 turned out when it was first held at Chukchansi Park.

The event is free and open to the public. It is put on by the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Sports Club of Fresno and the Shaheed Udham Singh Sports Club of Selma.

Competition begins at 11:30 a.m.

Kabaddi is a sport from ancient northern India that’s a mix of tackle football, Greco-Roman wrestling and the game of tag. Played in a circle, two teams of six players each will slap, evade and pin each other to the ground for points.

Teams are made up of one raider and four stoppers. The raider must penetrate a designated area, where four stoppers linking arms await him.

The raider’s objective is to touch any stopper – if a stopper is touched, that stopper tries to wrestle the raider to the ground before he returns to his court. The raider has 30 seconds to return before he’s out, all the time fighting off the remaining stopper who is trying to bring him down.