How often can one claim to the honour of making his debut in the international arena as a captain of the national team? And cap it off, by helping the team win the World Cup?
That was exactly what M. Arumugam did last year, helping India win the World Cup Kabaddi in Melaka, Malaysia.
It was dream debut for the 28-year-old, who faced numerous hurdles to even play at the state level competitions not long ago.
“Playing for India is like a dream come true. Initially it was difficult and I had to struggle to enter National Level competitions. When I chose to play kabaddi, rather than encouragement, I had to face lot of disappointments and failure.,” said Arumugam.
Kabaddi has its roots in India and is played by the masses there for close to 5,000 years. India’s winning record at the international level is unparalleled. As the second most followed sport in the cricket-mad nation, the number of talented players India churns out is just phenomenal.
It was Arumugam’s discipline and dedication to the sport that is seeing him reap the rewards now. The graduate in Bachelor of Commerce was also a member of the Bangalore Rhinos team that won the Indo International Premier Kabaddi League (IIPKL) last year.
“AIM IT, TRY IT and YOU CAN DO IT. That has been my motivational mantra. That would also be the advice I would give to the younger players. Discipline and dedication are important in sports. Follow that that and you can achieve success,” said Arumugam.
The Commerce graduate was quick to point out that while India was blessed with plenty of talented young players, the platform for them to excel was lacking.
“More needs to be done by the kabaddi organisations to identify these talents and give them the right opportunity,” said Arumugam.
He added that there have been a slew of changes with the efforts taken by the New Kabaddi Federation of India at the national level and by the World Kabaddi to promote and develop the game.
“Young players need help to realize their dreams and there has to be more opportunities for them to showcase their talent. There are many players, who like me had to struggle to break the barrier,” said Arumugam, whose first interest in sports was in athletics, in particular the long jump.
His personal best when he gave up long jump when he was just 13, was a distance of 6.25m .
He had given up the long jump to pursue his passion for kabaddi with the encouragement of his coach S. Prakash, a national sports award (Arjuna) winner for kabaddi.
“My family had also been my strength and backbone in my kabaddi career. They never failed to encourage and motivate me with the love,” said Arumugam, who was recently selected as the Best Player in India, and award given in conjunction with the World Kabaddi Day.
Arumugam also pointed out the influence from former Indian national captain Honnapa Gowda and the Sports Authority of India coach Sounderajan in his blossoming kabaddi career.
The skillful raider, who plays in the right corner, ranks the victory of his team at the All India Postal Department Nationals two years ago, as one of his best achievements in kabaddi apart from winning the World Cup last year.
“It was the first time in 18-years that my team had made the final in the tournament. Not only we won the game, but I was also selected as the Best Raider,” added Arumugam.
Arumugam, who hails from the South Indian city of Tirunelveli and now residing in Bangalore, ended his bachelorhood earlier this year. He was married in January to his wife P Mahalakshmi, who is also supportive of his involvement in kabaddi.
The six-footer, who speaks four languages (Kannada, Tamil, Hindi and English) hopes to inspire a new generation of players to take up the game and excel in it.
While the current coronavirus pandemic has put a stop to kabaddi competitions, Arumugam is hopeful of a return to normalcy and to play kabaddi at the international level again.
It has been a colourful kabaddi journey for Arumugam, who first played for his school back in 2008 and then for the Bangalore University two years later.