In a fantastically written piece in the Times of India, light is shed on how new visa curbs imposed is affecting the sports world, and the Indian community. Kabaddi, a sport familiar to the Indian subcontinent, it once lived a thriving life in the United Kingdom. A popular game, there were once 16 kabaddi clubs, 14 annual tournaments and over 10,000 crowds. But today, the scenario is not just different, it's outright depressing. “Kabaddi in England might disappear. We are the victims of a political clampdown,” Surinder Singh Manak, president of the England Kabaddi Federation, UK, said to TOI.
His reference is to the new visa restrictions imposed by the British home office. The government decided that the federation could only sponsor tier-5 visas for non-EU players who had participated in the annual Kabaddi World Cup organised by the government of Punjab in the last three years “to make sure they are of adquate calibre”. Kabaddi World Cup, which is also called 'Badal' Property', a reference to the powerful Badals of Punjab's Shiromani Akali Dal, was stopped after the Congress came to power in the state last year. “The last cup was held in Punjab in 2016. The fact that it has not taken place in recent years means not many players qualify,” Manak said. Around 100 professional players came for the British season until 2015, where the game is played in circle-style format, like in Punjab.
Meanwhile, this year the federation has only managed to put on four tournaments and scrape together five teams. Not one international player has come. Manak said, “It was the Beckhams of the kabaddi world we were bringing over. The players would train at the Sikh temples and inspire the kids. The event used to be twice the size it is today and we used to charge £10 for spectators. The whole of that area was packed with cars.” Now the spectators have thinned and the entry is free.
The federation has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid, but is yet to receive a response. “The main concern the home office has is abuse of the visa system. But there has not been a single case of a player overstaying. They are not competing with locals or taking jobs. Kabaddi is big money in India,” Manak said. TOI reported the UK Home Office denied any “clampdown” on issuing visas to kabaddi players. “The home office is working with the relevant sports governing body to agree endorsement requirements ahead of the 2019 season,” a spokesman said.