In a first-of-its-kind competition, women's kabaddi league makes its debut in India on Tuesday. Fire Birds take on Ice Divas in the first game at the Dome NSCI stadium in Mumbai.
The captain of the India women's kabaddi team, Mamtha Poojari, who has won 12 gold medals for the country as well as an Arjuna Award, is the skipper of the Fire Birds. Abhilasha Mhatre, also a member of the national team and an Arjuna Award winner, is the captain of Ice Divas. She was also a part of the commentary team over the seasons in Pro Kabaddi.
"I come from a small village, it's a backward area and people are conservative. Today not just my family, but my entire village is proud of the fact that a girl has put our village on the map," said Poojari to Live Mint ahead of her first kabaddi league campaign in the country.
The women will be plying their trade in 30-minute matches, divided into two halves, but the size of the mats will be the same as the one in the ongoing Pro Kabaddi season 4.
All of 36 players were selected from a list of 60 women kabaddi players in India to play in the first ever women's kabaddi league, which is not yet a full-fledged competition, even if plans are on to create a competitive league with more teams in the near future. The 36 players will play for three teams -- Fire Birds, Ice Divas and Storm Queens.
"That plan [starting a full-fledged kabaddi league] is a bit in the pipeline as of now, and we haven't given it a deadline as such," Charu Sharma, the managing director of Mashal Sports, one of the organisers of Pro Kabaddi, told Sportskeeda. "What we're doing at the moment is a sort of season teaser for the women's league. It's more in a preliminary nature."
The 36 participants have gone through rigorous training and crash courses on facing the media ahead of the competition, apart from getting into group zumba classes to improve the confidence and team bonding.
The opening match might just set a precedent for women's kabaddi.
Where to watch live
Women's kabaddi opening match: Fire Birds vs Ice Divas is scheduled for a 9 p.m. IST start on June 28.
Hindi Coverage - Star Gold, Star Sports 3, Star Sports HD 3
English Coverage - Star Sports 2, Star Sports HD 2
Telugu Coverage - Maa Movies
Kannada Coverage - Suvarna Plus
Live updates on Pro Kabaddi Twitter.