Saturday, November 01, 2014

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National Pastimes: Immigrants Bring Kabaddi To Queens Fields

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TWC News: National Pastimes: Immigrants Bring Kabaddi To Queens Fields
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Many immigrants spend their pastime playing cultural sports most Americans no nothing or very little about. They're popular in Queens, the borough known for its diversity. One little-known Indian sport spans thousands of years. NY1's Ruschell Boone filed the following report.

It looks like a good old-fashioned game of tag. But this is no traditional American game. It's Kabaddi, a mix of rugby, tag and wrestling. It's a favorite among Punjabi immigrants who play at Victory Field.

"We have a lot of fun playing this," said player Sembeep Singh. "That's our cultural game."

The 4,000-year-old game is wildly popular in Asia and it has a huge following in the Queens Indian community. Every summer, you see players from the New York Sports Kabaddi Club practicing in Ozone Park.

"It's kind of good to see all guys playing, like, friends and everything, like they're part of a family," said one person in attendance.

"It looks easy but when you play, it's really physical," said player Preet Singh.

The game requires speed and strength. Kabaddi is made up of raiders and stoppers. Each raider has 30 seconds to tag one of the four opposing stoppers and return to his side without being tackled and pinned.

The practice matches always draw the attention of curious onlookers.

"I like it because each country has different sports," said one onlooker, an Albanian. "So if they come to my country or here, they are sharing sports."

"I was trying to find out how it works," said another onlooker who was also Albanian. "Once they break it, he was chasing the guy who broke the chain."

Unlike many other sports, Kabaddi can be played in a small area and it doesn't require equipment or sporting gear.

Some say the game has caught on in other parts of the world because it is cheap to play. But in America, people still aren't familiar with it. The New York players are hoping to help change that by participating in a growing number of state tournaments.

"Maybe a couple more years it's going to be all over the country," said Baljinder Singh."

For now, it remains popular in Queens.

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