8 Popular International Kabaddi Teams

Discover the most skilled and popular international kabaddi teams and how they make their mark on the global stage.

8 Popular International Kabaddi Teams

India has won every Kabaddi World Cup

Kabaddi, a traditional sport that blends elements of wrestling and tag, has transformed into a global phenomenon with a dedicated following across the world.

Originating in ancient India, kabaddi has come a long way from its humble roots to international prominence.

The word “kabaddi” itself is derived from a Tamil word meaning “holding hands”.

This reflects the core concept of the game where a single player (“the raider”) tries to tag as many opponents as possible while chanting “kabaddi, kabaddi.”

As kabaddi’s popularity surged, it captured the fascination of enthusiasts globally.

With leagues, tournaments, and international events, here’s a closer look at eight international teams that have made their mark on the sport’s landscape.

Bangladesh 

8 Popular International Kabaddi Teams

Bangladesh’s kabaddi journey dates back to its rural roots, where the sport was played in villages as a form of entertainment and competition.

Over the years, kabaddi became a popular sport in schools and local communities, leading to the formation of a national team. 

The Bangladesh Kabaddi Team has consistently performed admirably in regional events.

In the first-ever Asian Kabaddi Championships (1980), Bangladesh were runners-up to winners India. Subsequently, they were runners-up again in 1988. 

However, from 2021-2023, the team won the Bangabandhu Cup three times in a row, empahsising why kabaddi is the country’s national sport. 

Several players have left an indelible mark on the Bangladesh Kabaddi Team’s journey.

One such figure is Arduzzaman Munshi, who is hailed as a kabaddi legend in Bangladesh.

Munshi’s exceptional skills and leadership on the field have earned him a revered status among kabaddi enthusiasts. 

Other players like Mamun Hossain, Sabuj Mia, and Abdur Razzaq have also made significant contributions to the team’s achievements.

The Bangladesh Kabaddi Team’s success is not just a matter of medals and victories; it’s a testament to the nation’s ability to fuse tradition with modern techniques.

As of August 2023, the International Kabaddi Federation has named them as the best international kabaddi team in the world. 

Iran

8 Popular International Kabaddi Teams

The Iran Kabaddi Team has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the world of kabaddi, showcasing exceptional skill and strategic brilliance.

Iran’s tryst with kabaddi began in the early 2000s when the sport started gaining traction within the country.

Despite being newcomers to the scene, the Iran Kabaddi Team rapidly rose through the ranks, leaving a trail of victories in their wake.

In the 2012 and 2014 Asian Beach Games, Iran took the top spot, going undefeated in both campaigns. 

Then in 2018, they beat South Korea to become victorious at the Asian Games. 

The Iran Kabaddi Team owes much of its success to a roster of exceptional players who have taken the sport to new heights.

One such figure is Meraj Sheykh, a kabaddi icon who has not only captained the team with distinction but has also been instrumental in shaping the future of kabaddi in Iran.

Fazel Atrachali is another notable player.

Atrachali’s physicality, tactical acumen, and ability to read the game have established him as a kabaddi stalwart. 

Iran have mastered the art of raiding and defending, creating a balance that keeps opponents on their toes.

Their achievements on the international stage and the players’ enduring dedication to the sport have elevated kabaddi’s status in Iran and beyond.

India

8 Popular International Kabaddi Teams

Rooted in rich tradition, kabaddi has evolved into a global phenomenon, with India consistently at the forefront of the sport’s evolution and excellence.

Kabaddi’s origins in India trace back centuries, with the sport evolving from a rural pastime to a national obsession.

The national team stands out as the most accomplished team among all nations.

They secured gold at the 1990 Asian Games (marking the inaugural year of the sport’s inclusion) and continued this success in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014.

Furthermore, India has won every Kabaddi World Cup held to date (2023). 

The team have also been graced by the presence of iconic players.

Anup Kumar, a kabaddi stalwart, not only captained the team but led India to numerous victories, solidifying his status as a kabaddi legend.

His ability to lead from the front and astute motivation set the bar high for future players.

Ajay Thakur is another name that shines brightly in the constellation of kabaddi stars.

His agility and brilliance to be able to turn the tide of a game have made him a household name in India.

The Indian players seamlessly switch between offense and defense, keeping opponents guessing and spectators enthralled.

Their ability to adapt to different playing styles and strategies has been a hallmark of their success.

Beyond their on-field accomplishments, the India Kabaddi Team has played a pivotal role in popularising the sport globally.

Their participation in various international leagues and tournaments has introduced kabaddi to new audiences, fuelling the sport’s growth and fanbase around the world.

South Korea

8 Popular International Kabaddi Teams

The South Korea Kabaddi Team’s journey is a testament to the sport’s global expansion.

While not traditionally associated with kabaddi, South Korea’s team has made remarkable strides, showcasing their willingness to embrace new sporting horizons.

South Korea’s kabaddi journey began in the early 2000s.

Despite being relatively new, the team has displayed remarkable enthusiasm and a thirst for growth.

While South Korea may not have a deep historical connection to the sport, their team’s evolution has been impressive.

Through rigorous training, a hunger for learning, and a spirit of innovation, they have risen in prominence within the kabaddi community.

Their performances in international competitions have garnered attention, with the team displaying commendable speed. 

Jang Kun Lee, the captain of the Korean team, stands as one of the most renowned international figures in the Pro Kabaddi league.

During the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup, South Korea secured a commendable third place, although they were bested by Iran in the semi-finals.

Notably, South Korea remained the sole team to triumph over the eventual champions, India, throughout the entire tournament.

South Korea’s participation in the 2018 Dubai Kabaddi Masters was an invitation extended to one of the top four kabaddi nations across the globe.

In a significant achievement, South Korea managed to overcome India in the 2018 Asian Games, marking India’s inaugural defeat in the tournament.

This victory also earned South Korea their inaugural silver medal.

So, it shows that this team is not here to take part, rather it’s here to cause shockwaves through the sport. 

With a building track record of causing upsets, could South Korea be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years? 

Pakistan

8 Popular International Kabaddi Teams

Kabaddi holds a special place in Pakistan’s cultural landscape, becoming one of the most loved sports across the nation.

The Pakistan Kabaddi Team’s journey is a continuation of this legacy, showcasing the nation’s passion for a game that resonates deeply with its people.

Starting from 1985, Pakistan has participated in 38 significant international competitions, where they reached the finals 25 times.

Out of these instances, they clinched victory in five tournaments, secured the second position 20 times, and attained third-place honours 13 times.

In the realm of Asian Games, Pakistan stands apart as the only team, apart from their arch-rivals India, to consistently win medals.

They won bronze medals in 1990, and 1994, and achieved a silver medal in 1998. 

In 2002, they secured third place and in 2006, Pakistan settled for silver. 

This pattern persisted as Pakistan clinched third position in the consecutive Asian Games of 2010, 2014, and 2018.

Although, in the South Asian Championships, it’s a different story.

In 1993, Pakistan emerged as champions by triumphing over archrival India in the final.

Subsequent to that achievement, the Pakistani team advanced to the finals on six occasions and secured bronze medals four times but failed to reclaim another championship.

In 2012 and 2016, Pakistan were triumphant in the Circle Kabaddi Asian Cup.

The team also achieved their inaugural Asian Beach Games championship in 2016, succeeding their four previous runner-up positions.

In 2020, Pakistan ascended to the position of Kabaddi World Champion (Circle Style), ending a streak of being the runner-up four times in the last five World Cup competitions.

They achieved this feat by defeating India with a score of 43-41.

Despite these jubilant times, the Pakistan Kabaddi Team has navigated through limited resources, lack of infrastructure, and political disruptions.

Despite these obstacles, the team’s determination has led them to compete in international tournaments and establish a presence on the global kabaddi map.

Sri Lanka

8 Popular International Kabaddi Teams

Despite not being as deeply entrenched in kabaddi as some of its neighbouring countries, Sri Lanka’s team has showcased determination, adaptability, and a growing passion for the game.

Kabaddi’s presence in Sri Lanka may be relatively recent, but its growth has been steady and promising.

Introduced to the nation through local communities and schools, kabaddi quickly gained traction as a physically demanding and strategy-rich sport.

While the Sri Lanka Kabaddi Team may not have an extensive historical record in international competitions, its growth is evident in its performances.

In the 1998 Asian Games, they came fourth but achieved sixth place in the 2002 tournament. 

However, in 1999, the team achieved a bronze medal at the South Asian Games, Sri Lanka’s first-ever medal.

In 2009, they managed to secure another bronze medal at the Asian Indoor Games. 

The Sri Lankan Women’s Team has also added to the country’s success by winning a bronze medal at the 2010 South Asian Games.

Interestingly, from 2012 to 2016, the players achieved three consecutive bronze medals at the Asian Beach Games. 

So, the team’s participation in regional tournaments has allowed them to gain valuable experience and improve their skills.

As they continue to develop their game, they contribute to the global expansion of kabaddi.

Kenya

8 Popular International Kabaddi Teams

In 2013, Madam Laventer Oguta laid the foundation for the Kenya Kabaddi Union and established the Kenya Kabaddi National Team.

Her curiosity in the sport was ignited when she stumbled upon a match on YouTube.

Subsequently, she became a part of the inaugural team that journeyed to India to participate in the World Kabaddi Championship. 

Kenya has had the privilege of sending players to the prestigious Pro Kabaddi League in India.

Over five Kenyan players have represented various clubs in India since the league’s inception.

Simon Kibura etched his name in history as the pioneer Kenyan participant, competing for Puneri Paltan and Bengal Warriors.

Phelix Opana joined Bengal Warriors and team captain David Mosambayi previously played for Puneri Paltan and currently represents Haryana Steelers.

Moreover, the Kenya Kabaddi National Team proudly represented their nation in the 2016 Kabaddi World Cup.

They secured victories in three matches against Japan, USA, and Poland.

During the 2016 World Cup, Kenyan players delivered remarkable performances.

James Obilo and Odhiambo Zuma emerged as standout defenders, while David Mosambayi showcased exceptional raiding skills.

Notably, James Obilo holds a world record of 13 tackle points in a single match and an impressive record of four super tackles in a single game.

Captain David Mosambayi proudly holds the world record for amassing 21 raid points in a match.

More recently, Kenya emerged as victors in the Eastern Africa Championship, proudly bringing home the Eastern Africa Championship trophy.

Additionally, the Kenya Kabaddi National Team has achieved the prestigious distinction of securing the silver medal twice in the Bangladesh Bangabandhu Cup.

The Kenya Kabaddi Team’s story stands as a shining example of how sports can forge connections that transcend geo

Thailand

8 Popular International Kabaddi Teams

The Thailand Kabaddi Team’s growth has been steady and promising.

Introduced through schools, the sport quickly found a place in the hearts of Thai athletes.

The formation of the Thailand Kabaddi Team marked a significant step in the country’s sporting evolution.

Their pursuit of mastery in kabaddi’s unique blend of physicality and strategy speaks to their dedication to the game and their aspiration to excel on the global kabaddi stage.

Furthermore, the roster boasts individuals who have embraced the challenges of learning a new sport and have exhibited remarkable potential.

These players have risen to the occasion, showcasing their dedication to kabaddi and their ability to adapt to its techniques and nuances.

The Women’s Team excelled in the Asian Games.

They won silver in 2010 and bronze in 2014 and 2018. 

The Men’s team has been lackluster in the same competition. Although, they’ve made up for it through other competitions. 

They won bronze at the 2008 Asian Beach Games in Indonesia and achieved the same feat at the Asian Indoor Games in Incheon (2013). 

While Thailand may not have the trophy cabinet of other countries, they are a fan-favourite. 

The players respect the sport’s origins and try to embrace the different styles whilst adapting to their opposition.

The Thailand Kabaddi Team’s journey stands as a testament to the unifying power of sports.

Their progress, dedication, and presence on the international kabaddi stage showcase how kabaddi can create connections and foster friendship among individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Kabaddi’s journey from a rural pastime to an internationally acclaimed sport is awe-inspiring.

These popular international kabaddi teams are emblematic of the sport’s universal appeal and its ability to bridge cultural gaps.

As the sport continues to thrive and captivate hearts around the world, one thing remains clear: kabaddi’s influence knows no boundaries.



Balraj is a spirited Creative Writing MA graduate. He loves open discussions and his passions are fitness, music, fashion, and poetry. One of his favourite quotes is “One day or day one. You decide.”



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