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Kabaddi: India beat Iran, win gold after unheralded scenes in Asiad finals

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Hangzhou: After nearly an hour of unheralded scenes, India won the gold medal by defeating Iran 33-29 in the finals of Asian Games 2023 kabaddi here on Saturday.

Controversy surrounded just a minute was left for the match to get over. Pawan Sehrawat was forced to go for a do-or-die raid when India and Iran were tied at 28-28.

During the raid, Pawan did not make any contacts with any of the Iranian tacklers and went into the lobby. In response, Amir Hossein Bastami and three other Iranian defenders sprinted towards Pawan in a bid to push him out.

Subsequently confusion prevailed as it was unclear whether Pawan was tackled by the Iranian defenders. Initially, Iran and India were granted a point for their efforts to stop Pawan.

However, the Indian contingent including players and officials, indulged in argument with the on-court umpire and the TV officials.

After further review on computer screens, the referee awarded four points to India because four players went out of the bound along with Pawan.

Dissatisfied, Iran protested this decision. Thereafter, the referee reversed the decision, giving India and Iran a point each as per the new rule.

At this point, Indian officials led by Coach Edachery Bhaskaran engaged in heated arguments with the referees, telling them that India should be given four points as per the old rule.

Meanwhile, the Indian players sat on the mat to protest. Amidst the dilemma, the officials of the Asian Games rushed to the venue to solve the issue.

After further reviews, India was given four points and at this point of time, the Iranians protested by sitting on the mat.

Ultimately, the officials and referee granted three points to India and a point to Iran based on the International Kabaddi Federation Rule which states, “If a defender or defenders who has/have touched the ground outside the boundary (as per rule 5), hold a raider, the raider will be declared NOT OUT. The defender or defenders who have gone out of bounds only will be declared out.”

India hauled up two more points to complete the match in their favour.

This was the Indian men’s kabaddi team’s eighth gold medal in the Asian Games history.

India lost to Iran in the semifinal at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. Before that, India won all seven gold medals since kabaddi made its Asian Games debut at Beijing 1990.

A robust Iranian defence led by captain Fazel Atrachali put India under pressure at the start with strong tackles. However, Indian kabaddi captain Pawan Sehrawat and raider Naveen Kumar kept India in the hunt by stealing away points consistently.

Mohammad Reza Shadlu did the job for Iran early with multi-point raids. Iran led India 12-9 with around three minutes to go for the half-time.

Nevertheless, the Indian defence, spearheaded by vice-captain Sunil Kumar helped India subject Iran to an all-out to go into the break with a four-point lead at 17-13. Aslam Inamdar and Naveen Kumar also chipped in with crucial raiding points.

Though India started the scoring in the second half, Iran inflicted an all-out on India and levelled the scores at 25-all with 10 minutes to go for the full-time.

Pawan then led India’s fightback and removed captain Fazel Atrachali with a raid. The experienced Mohammad Esmaeil Nabibakhsh was also sent out as India led 28-25.

Iran mounted a comeback with three successive points. The scores were level at 28-all with just a minute to go for the final whistle.

Alireza Mizaeian went in for Iran next but was tackled down by the Indian defence. With time on India’s side, Naveen Kumar went in for the final raid of the match to win a point and complete India’s win.

Earlier in their campaign, India made it to the semifinals unbeaten with four wins out of four matches in the group stage. They beat Pakistan in the semi-finals. Iran also made it through to the semis unbeaten and beat Chinese Taipei for a place in the final.

Kabaddi is also part of the programme for the 2026 Asian Games to be held in Japan.

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