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Stars line up behind global Kabaddi league.

Kabaddi, the traditional Indian sport, is all set for its international league debut with a kick off in London next month and matches in Dubai, Canada, the US and Belgium.

Games in India are scheduled for October.

The 10-team league will follow a five month season and play in circle style, which is the most popular kabaddi format played in 26 countries across the globe, according to the statement.

The World Kabaddi League, is a personal venture headed by Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

The league follows the Formula 1 touring sports format and will be played across four continents starting from August to December.

"In the northern region of the Indian subcontinent, kabaddi is an extremely popular sport and the last four kabaddi World Cups held in India bear testimony to this," Badal said.

"I am extremely proud to let the world know of India's sporting prowess in the field of kabaddi through World Kabaddi League.

"This league is extremely close to my heart and I envision it to grow by great leaps in the next few years.

"In its current form, the league will be played across four continents with access to nearly 200 kabaddi clubs across the world. For kabaddi, I believe this is just the beginning," he said.

Former India hockey captain Pargat Singh, commissioner for the World Kabaddi League, has been closely involved in the daily scope of operations of the league.

"After successfully executing four editions of the Kabaddi World Cup in Punjab, we realised the need for a professional kabaddi league which connects South Asians across the world with their traditional heritage. By adding more action-oriented elements to this original Indian contact team sport, we are making it viewer-friendly," he said.

The organisers of World Kabaddi League say they are targeting Rs 100 crore turnover (about C$17 million) in the first year and that team owners could break-even in its first edition itself.

Fashioned on the lines of the cricketing extravaganza Indian Premier League (IPL), the league has found takers in Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar and rapper Yo Singh, who have put in hundreds of throusands of dollars each for team rights. Kumar has bought a team in partnership with Fastway Transmissions, a Punjab-based cable network company.

Punjabi rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh named his team 'Yo Yo Tigers' and it will be hosted in Toronto.

"We are in the middle of finalising the other team owners and get sponsors," said Raman Raheja, chief executive officer of WKL.

"The business model is very good and we hope to make Rs 100 crore turnover in the first year," Raheja said, adding that a popular Bollywood actress has confirmed as one of the team owners.

Commenting on his decision to invest in the game, Honey Singh said, "I just understood the basic business structure of it and I loved it."

The indigenous league has attracted industrialist Anand Mahindra, adman Piyush Pandey and actor Abhishek Bachchan.

While Kabaddi revels in its new found international limelight, the sport has also been tainted with links to an international synthetic drugs racket and money laundering.

India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had recently asked the Punjab government to furnish records of the World Kabaddi Cup, organised by it in recent years.

There are allegations that the tournament, an event of the Punjab government, was funded by private sponsors through black money.

The Pearls Group had sponsored for three years the mega Kabaddi event, which was the brainchild of Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.

CBI officials investigating the money laundering by the Pearls realty group want to probe how several crores of rupees were spent by the group on the event.

While the Pearls group has claimed it funded the World Kabaddi Cup with up to Rs.35 crore, the same has not been reflected by the Punjab government and the event's organising committee in its records.

The Pearls group is owned by Nirmal Singh Bhangoo, who hails from Punjab.

"The CBI has asked the Punjab government to submit all records of the Kabaddi cup in past years along with the funding provided by the Pearls group. They have been asked to submit records within one week," a CBI source told IANS.

The last edition of the World Kabaddi Cup was held in December 2013 and cash prizes of a total of Rs.6 crore were given to teams.

Kabaddi teams from over 20 countries participated in the tournament. Crores of rupees were spent by various agencies of the Punjab government in organising matches in stadiums across Punjab for 15 days.

Kabaddi, a popular sport in Punjab's rural areas, attracted attention for wrong reasons last year when it was revealed that Kabaddi clubs operating out of Canada, which were involved in events in Punjab and Canada, were linked to the Rs.6,000-crore international synthetic drugs racket operating from Punjab and having its network in Canada, European countries and the US.

At least four people of Punjab origin based in Canada were under the scanner of Punjab Police for helping out international-wrestler-turned-police officer-turned-drugs kingpin Jagdish Bhola in his drugs network.

Those investigated included Vancouver-based promoter of the Azadi Kabaddi Club, Dara Singh Mathoda, former kabaddi player Sarabjit Singh alias Nick based in Delta, British Columbia (Canada), Nirankara Singh Dhillon based in Brampton-Ontario (Canada) and Harbans Sidhu based in Toronto.

Dhillon is the fatherin-law of Kulwant Singh, who was arrested in another multi-milliondollar drugs racket run by NRI Anoop Singh Kahlon.

Mathoda used to organise a cash-rich Kabaddi tournament in his village near Phagwara town, 150 km from here, annually. In 2012, the first prize for the winner of the village kabaddi tournament was a Rs.10 lakh SUV (sport utility vehicle).

Caption: Punjabi rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh named his team 'Yo Yo Tigers' and it will be hosted in Toronto.

Caption: Bollywood megastar Akshay Kumar has bought a team in partnership with Fastway Transmissions, a Punjab-based cable network company.
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Title Annotation:Top Story
Publication:South Asian Post
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jul 17, 2014
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