2016 Kabaddi World Cup :: Learning from YouTube, Kabaddi in Kenya has come a long way - News

Learning from YouTube, Kabaddi in Kenya has come a long way

17 September 2016

Kenya is renowned for its rich sporting heritage. Its track and field athletes are amongst the best in the world and it is the dream of every youngster to make it to the top. Into this landscape of fierce competition, the arrival of kabaddi was a timely event. An intensely demanding sport with a premium placed on adaptability and versatility, these requirements have actually worked in favour of the Kenyans.

It has been relatively easy for athletes from other sports to make a transition to kabaddi, thanks to their high levels of fitness and athleticism. In just two years, there are over a thousand registered players in the country, and kabaddi is watched in most urban areas. However, this phenomenal growth is the result of the hard work put in by a few, dedicated individuals.

Laventer Oguta, the founder of the Kenya Kabaddi Federation (KKF), learnt about the sport from Ashok Das, President of the England Kabaddi Federation. Das introduced her to the rules of the game and guided her to kabaddi-related content on YouTube. Oguta started watching videos of kabaddi matches to learn the rules and then went on to found the KKF with Silars Jakakiimba in 2014.

The main challenge Oguta faced was the low awareness of the game. She started scouting for players from other sports and encouraged their development by signing them up as interim members. Her talent search led to identifying players from tournaments held in various cities and thus, the Kenya National Team was born.

The players began their training without any formal coaching, first familiarising themselves with the rules of kabaddi and then honing their skills through YouTube videos. This might seem like a herculean task but it was not the first time this feat was accomplished. Olympic javelin thrower Julius Yego represented Kenya at the 2016 Olympics after mastering his ability through watching and imitating YouTube videos.

The natural aptitude of Kenyan players was apparent when their players burst onto the international scene. Simon M. Kibura, David Mosambayi and Phelix Odhiambo are some of their biggest names.

While the lack of funding has been a stumbling block along the way, Oguta has been able to fund the kabaddi programme through earnings from rugby and running a business. She has been able to spread the sport to three neighbouring countries, with the nerve centres of the sport based out of Kenya’s major cities like Nairobi, Mombasa and Machakos.

The future of the sport in Kenya looks strong. For Oguta, school tournaments have played a vital role in helping identify talent and getting players to join the kabaddi junior team. Women, in particular, have taken to it very well, with several women’s teams in schools across the country. This has created a well-thought out and sustainable pipeline for future talent.

This time around, it is going to be Kenya’s first world event competing as a team, and whether they succeed or not, their achievement is testament to the remarkable resilience of the nation and their sporting spirit.