Going for gold: This TN Kabaddi player overcame family pressure to win honours for India

Anthoniyammal fell in love with Kabaddi the first time she saw a match in Class 6, and has never stopped playing since.
Going for gold: This TN Kabaddi player overcame family pressure to win honours for India
Going for gold: This TN Kabaddi player overcame family pressure to win honours for India
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For Anthoniyammal, the love of Kabaddi began when she was in Class 6. “One day, I went to watch a Kabaddi match in my school and I thought why can’t I play this game?” she recalls. But the young schoolgirl could not have imagined just how far that innocent plunge into the game would take her.

At 24, the beach Kabaddi player from Villupuram district in Tamil Nadu has just returned home from the International Beach Kabaddi Championship, held in Mauritius on March 18 and 19, proudly wearing her gold medal.

Hailing from Sozhaipandapuram village in Villupuram district, Anthoniyammal scored 23 points in the final against England, helping the six-member Indian team win the match by a convincing 31-point margin. India finished the final at 56 against England’s 25.

Speaking to The News Minute about the final, Anthoniyammal says, “I’m very happy that we won but the last match was difficult, the other team was very well-prepared. The other countries train themselves on beaches for the game but I had to go to Chennai or Vishakhapatnam to practice on a beach. Usually, we practice in our college.”

How it began

It was Anthoniyammal’s school sports teacher, Muthukumar, together with her school senior, Ashok Kumar, who taught and trained her in Kabaddi. By 2007, Anthoniyammal had progressed to playing district level matches.

 “I have 200 certificates and 100 medals which I have won in district, state and international championships,” she says proudly.

It was during one state-level championship that her present coach Deva spotted her and asked her to join Madurai’s Yadava college, where she could pursue her higher studies under the sports quota. She is currently pursuing her Masters degree in Tamil from Yadava college.

Anthoniyammal, who plays left corner, made her international debut last year during the Asian Beach Games in Vietnam. The Indian team returned home with the gold.

Asked about her inspiration, and the 24-year-old is quick to reply, “My coaches Deva and Janarthanan sir are my inspiration.”

Tough road to success

The road to success has, however, been far from easy for Anthoniyammal, who has to cope with pressures on and off the kabaddi field. She hails from a lower middle class family, and her father is a milkman and her mother, a housewife. “When I passed Class 10, my parents asked me to get married. They had also told me not to go to college,” she says.

But it wasn’t just her parents, who failed to share her dream of becoming a kabaddi player. “People in my village used to say that I should not play kabaddi as I am a girl,” Anthoniyammal notes.

Defying her family and her village, she moved to Madurai to pursue her dreams.  Her determination, however, paid off. Things slowly changed for Anthoniyammal.

 “My parents are very happy for me and keep encouraging me to keep playing. The people in my village also appreciate me for working hard and getting to this level,” she emphasises.

Despite the financial difficulties in pursuing her passion, Anthoniyammal says that her coaches often pitch in. She, however, points out that Indian Kabaddi players like her require the support of the government. Anthoniyammal says, “There is lot of scope for Kabaddi in India. We have the best teams for Kabaddi but the government should support us by providing accommodation and financial help.”

What’s next for Anthoniyammal?

“I want to win the gold medal in the World Cup,” she says ambitiously.

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