Enver Creek (white) and Tamanawis went head-to-head in a Surrey high school kabaddi match May 25 at Enver Creek Secondary. (Photo: Rick Kupchuk)

Kabaddi becomes a high school sport

Four Surrey teams participate in inaugural season

Surrey’s newest high school sports league is drawing large crowds to games being played by the four participating teams.

The Surrey High School Kabaddi League played its first games May 16, featuring teams from Enver Creek, Tamanawis, L.A. Matheson and Panorama Ridge Secondary schools.

“We’re getting 100 spectators a game, minimum,” said Mandeep Dhaliwal, a teacher at Tamanawis and one of the organizers of the league. “The interesting thing is it’s a diverse mix. People with no attachment to the school are coming to watch.”

Dhaliwal describes kabaddi as “a combination of wrestling and tag.” Teams are positioned on the opposite ends of a small field, taking turns sending a ‘raider’ into the other half to earn points by tackling opponents before escaping back to his own half.

The sport is very popular in South Asia, particularly in India.

“The game itself is very intense,” said Dhaliwal. “Like football and rugby, there’s some hard tackling. In kabaddi, in every raid there’s a hard tackle.”

Calling the Surrey high school league the first of its kind outside of India, Dhaliwal said the games are creating a buzz in participating schools, and in the families of participants. “It’s given the kids something to talk to their parents and grandparents about,” he said. “It’s nostalgic for them. Parents and grandparents will support their kids playing basketball, but they’re not familiar with the game so it’s hard to talk about it.”

The league will conclude with a tournament June 8, when a short, but successful, first season will conclude.

“We kept it small, because it’s our first time,” said Dhaliwal. “It just made sense, because this has never happened in high school before, so there’s nowhere to draw from.

“And it’s best to let it grow itself. If it’s done right, we hope to double the number for teams next year. And I think that’s realistic.”

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