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Takraw tourney to kick off

The city's all set to witness dynamic, yet graceful, games of Sepak Takraw

SEPAK TAKRAW has been described as a game that combines the skills of football, volleyball and gymnastics. It takes incredible reflexes, agility and power - especially in the legs - to excel at this sport. Takraw is not very well known in India although it was a demonstration sport at the Delhi Asiad in 1982.

That was the year when the national federation was also formed and since then the Sports Authority of India has started training centres at Delhi, Kolkata, Imphal and Bareilly besides a one-year diploma course for coaches at NIS, Kolkata. In Andhra Pradesh, the Sepak Takraw Association was formed in 1983. Over the years, the state has bagged many medals at the senior and junior levels in various categories. Now the AP Sepak Takraw Association will conduct the eighth edition of the junior national championship at the Victory Playground in Chaderghat, from February 4 to February 6.

Gearing up for the tourney, the players from the state have been honing their skills at a month-long coaching camp. In India, some of the best players hail from Manipur. When watching them in action one cannot but marvel at the way they leap, twist their bodies in mid-air and execute acrobatic overhead kicks into the rival court. The short and agile Manipuris seem to have the ideal physique for this sport.

It is believed that Sepak Takraw originated in Malaysia several centuries ago. The game is now very popular in Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia. It is also known by different names such as Sepak Raga Jala in Brunei, Ten Chew in China and Ching Loong in Myanmar. Initially, Sepak Takraw was played by participants standing in a circle and trying to keep the ball in the air by means of heading or kicking it. In 1930, a net was introduced and teams competed with each other by scoring points across the net as in volleyball or badminton. The rules were standardised in 1960 and so the sport was born.

The rules basically are akin to those of volleyball but the ball is made of rattan or very hard plastic, weighing approximately 180 grams. The ball is meant to be hit over the net, which is at a height of 1.52 metres.

Instead of using their hands, players must use their legs or head for volleying and smashing the ball across the net. Some players can even use their head to block the ball but it is not easy since the ball often travels at 60 miles per hour when top-notch players smash it from the other side of the net.

Needless to say, after mastering this sport, a person's jumping ability and kicking power reaches a very high standard. It is not surprising, therefore, that in several countries in South East Asia, many football players often play Sepak Takraw to hone their kicking skills, agility and ball control.


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