New Delhi: India is leaving no stones unturned in its preparation for the ISTAF SuperSeries, sepaktakraw`s most spectacular event, to be held here from August 29 to September 1.
Defending champions Thailand will lead the challenge in the 12-team men`s category, which also includes hosts India, Malaysia, South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, Brunei, Philippines, United States, Myanmar and Iran.
In the eight-team women`s division, the formidable Thais have for company India, Vietnam, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and China.
Sepaktakraw Federation of India (STFI) secretary-general, Yogender Singh Dahiya, said the stage is set for event, which will comprise more than 200 players and officials from 14 nations here at the K D Jadhav Hall, Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium.
"We`re delighted to play hosts to the ISTAF SuperSeries event, which will go a big way in popularising sepaktakraw in India. This will be a big step for Indian Sepaktakraw and provide tremendous exposure to the sport among Indian sports fans," said Yogender.
"The interest in the sport is bound to increase a great deal and we hope it will attract youngsters to take up the sport. Live telecast of the event will provide tremendous exposure for sepaktakraw, which made its Asian Games debut in 1990," he added.
The Indian sports fans got their first glimpse of sepaktakraw when it was introduced as a demonstration sport in the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi.
"India`s performance graph in international competitions over the years has played a key role in the SuperSeries coming to India. In the ISTAF SuperSeries 2011/12 edition, India`s men`s team qualified for the semi-finals. We are certainly hoping to improve on this and we have, of course, intensified our training methods," said Yogender.
Yogendra said that selection for the Indian national teams was based on the performance of players in the 24th Senior National Championships. Twenty-seven state teams and one department team competed in the championships with Manipur State team emerging champions.
There are currently more than 6,000 sepaktakraw players in India.
The leading players in the men`s team are Nanao Singh (server), G Jiteshwor Sharma (feeder) while the strikers are Niken Singh and Y Akash Singh.
On the women`s front, hopes are high on Jimi Devi (server), Maipak Devi (feeder), E BinalataandChouba Devi (strikers).
The 14 nations will also compete in the second leg in Bangkok, Thailand from September 26 29, the third leg will be in Kota Kinabalau, Sabah from October 29 to November 3 before concluding with the finals, the dates of which will be announced later.
Yogender acknowledged that Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Myanmar are superior in the men`s division while in the women`s category, the Vietnamese, South Koreans and Thais will be the teams to beat.