Mamtha Poojari, now 30, the winner of an Arjuna Award, 12 gold medals for India and captain of the Indian team is taking the next leap forward.
As captain of Fire Birds, she will play in the Women’s Kabaddi Challenge, starting on Tuesday at the National Sports Club of India in Mumbai.
The event, organized by the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India, Mashal Sports and Star India, will run concurrently with the Star Sports Pro Kabaddi League. Three teams—Fire Birds captained by Poojari, Ice Divas captained by Abhilasha Mhatre and Storm Queens captained by Tejeswini Bai—will play the seven-match league, with the finals to be held alongside the men’s on 31 July in Hyderabad.
The women’s kabaddi challenge is Star India’s attempt to grow the sport and the league, in under two years of the launch of Pro Kabaddi League. The broadcaster is fairly optimistic that there will be takers for the women’s tournament—both on ground and on air—considering that women’s programmes have been strong at the local clubs and get support from the public sector.
The background work on the new league started almost two years ago with the Star Sports team attending national as well as local tournaments across India to scout and spot talent. The team zeroed in on 60 of the best players in India, who were pulled in for a two-day selection process. Forty-two of these players were then enrolled in a month-long resident training camp in Mumbai to prepare for the challenge.
According to industry estimates, Season 4 of the Pro Kabaddi League has already pulled in Rs.70 crore in sponsorships for Star India. This is 50% higher than what the League pulled in last year, at Rs.45 crore.
The Women’s Kabaddi Challenge will be played across multiple cities: Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Jaipur and Pune.