Meet the woman changing the sports scene in India with her “Dabang” franchise

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Women in sports management is an uncommon sight, with Hannah Waddingham’s character on the hit Apple TV show “Ted Lasso” being a notable exception. Yet India’s glass ceiling in this area has been firmly shattered by the Delhi-based company. Radha Kapoor Khannaowner of Dabang Delhi Kabaddi Club. The team recently won the title in the eighth season of the VIVO Pro Kabaddi League in a thrilling final match against Patna Pirates on February 25, 2022.

“I played Kabaddi during my school years and I love the sport! With my Dabang Delhi Kabaddi Club team, I wanted to prepare, perfect and deliver the best kabaddi players in the nation. We are thrilled to win Season 8 of the Pro Kabaddi League and look forward to more moments of glory for our franchisees in the years to come. Hopefully one day we will also see this sport in the Olympics,” exclaims Radha in a conversation with YS Weekender.

Radha Kapoor Khanna with Dabang Delhi Kabaddi Club who won the eighth season of VIVO Pro Kabaddi League.

A penchant for sports

Radha graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York, majoring in Communication Design and Management. She describes herself as a creative entrepreneur and design thinker, and also founded the Indian School of Design and Innovation.

Having practiced several sports as a child, Radha was also keen to promote them. She says,

“Kabaddi is an indigenous sport played all over the country, and I wanted to empower young talents. The Pro Kabaddi League was the right platform to do that. The concept of the league is very innovative and we were convinced that the modernization of this sport would arouse the interest of television viewers in India.

In addition to Kabaddi, she has also been involved in promoting other sports. She owns the Dabang Bombay Hockey Cluband the Dabang Delhi Table Tennis Club where his team won the title in the second season of the Ultimate Table Tennis League.

Radha has focused on developing ‘rurban’ (rural and urban) sports initiatives – a term she coined herself – in the watersheds of northern India. This is where Kabaddi is really popular as a game. As part of her business, she has executed various grassroots initiatives and nurtured young talents, attempting to take the sport to the next level.

“We have always wanted to identify new heroes through our initiatives and nurture young talent. I pledge to play a pivotal role in India’s Sportainment revolution with an organic convergence of sport and entertainment. I am spearheading this intention with several grassroots programs for Kabaddi across India,” she smiles.

Kabaddi for the masses

Season 8 of the Pro Kabaddi League saw the participation of 12 teams from different parts of the country. Each team plays the other 11 teams twice in the league phase of the tournament. The top six teams enter the play-offs, where the top two seeded teams have the added advantage of advancing directly to the semi-finals.

Radha Kapoor Khanna after victory

Asked about the strong name she has collectively given to her sports teams, Radha said: “We have always wanted a team that reflects the qualities of strength, focus, agility and other positive aspects necessary to excel in the sport. sport. With this intention, we launched “Dabang Delhi KC”, which suited our team perfectly. The name “Dabang” stuck with all of our franchisees, as we felt it resonated with our supporters and fans. »

Radha describes the player selection process as intense, as it’s all about picking the right talent.

The objective has always been to build a team made up of young players and experienced players. She also credits their grassroots programs with helping identify budding talent, which can then be nurtured with coaching and guidance.

Although Radha personally oversees the selection process, she has a team of managers and coaches who are more familiar with the performances of the players in the local tournaments that take place in different parts of India.

She highlights the example of their star player Naveen Kumar, also known as ‘Naveen Express’.

Although he joined as a “new young player” under a special league program, he became a leader and was awarded “Most Valuable Player” in seasons 7 and 8 of the VIVO Pro Kabaddi league.

Victory

Speaking about the team’s memorable win this season, Radha said,

“I was delighted with our team’s performance throughout the season, but the final was just amazing. We narrowly missed out on winning the season before, but I was confident we had the strength to win the title and become the Vivo Pro Kabaddi League champions – and I’m so delighted we did it!”

Kabaddi as a game has changed phenomenally over the past decade and Radha has followed the change closely. She says that just 10 years ago the sport was played on mud, but today there are stadiums across the country where it is played to international standards on a mat. From being a fringe sport played in rural parts of India, Kabaddi has made its way into the homes of billions across the country.

This is especially seen in the lives of the players. The highest salary for a player in the first season was Rs 10-12 lakh while he now earns in crores. Radha credits the Pro Kabaddi League for the change, which allows kids interested in the sport to show off their skills and carve out a career.

She adds, “The sport’s modernization and innovation by league teams resonates with Gen-Z. I am happy to hear that the schools are reviving this heritage sport.

Leading a sports team has its own unique challenges. Radha should look to get the right mix of players and strike a balance between raiders and defenders. It takes years of experience to properly analyze stats and nurture young talent to create a winning combination. Still, his efforts clearly paid off as Dabang Delhi KC won VIVO Pro Kabaddi League Season 8.

Then this multi-hyphen works on curating a design market called “Art Directed”. She concludes as follows: “Over the years, I have personally acquired many qualities within our team. The concept of never giving up and the ability to bounce back from setbacks. There were key games where we trailed by a decent margin, but the boys always believed in themselves and fought back on the mat. This is why we are the champions today.

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