London: It`s quintessentially Indian but Kabaddi is all set to make waves across three continents with the first-of-its-kind World Kabaddi League kickstarting here from Saturday as Bollywood stars Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha will add a dash of glamour to the ambitious event.
Featuring eight teams, including one from Pakistan, the tournament will be played for four months in USA, England, Canada, UAE and India. What makes it unique is the presence of international players in all the teams, two of them co-owned by Akshay (Khalsa Warriors) and Sonakshi (United Singhs).
With hockey legend Pargat Singh as League commissioner, the Khalsa Warriors, Yo Yo Tigers (owned by famed singer Honey Singh), Vancouver Lions, Punjab Thunder, Lahore Lions, United Singhs, California Eagles and Royal Kings will fight it out for a winner`s cheque of Rs 1.7 crore. The salary of each player in the league, which has Punjab deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal as its promoter and president, is pegged at Rs 1.5 crore.
The matches will be of four quarters of 12 minutes each with a three-minute break between the first and second and the third and fourth quarters.
Besides, teams will also get a 10-minute timeout at half-time. Adding a bit of entertainment to the proceedings will be performances by singers and actors during breaks. It is learnt that Sonakshi will also perform during the closing stages of the League.
The venues for the league include eight international (London, Birmingham, Dubai, New York, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Vancouver, Toronto) and six Indian (New Delhi, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Bhatinda, Amritsar, Mohali) cities. The tournament will follow the double round robin format with a total of 94 matches -- 90 league games and four playoffs -- and has 144 international players on its roster.
Every team will play the other seven thrice before the top four qualify for the play-offs. The final will be played in Mohali on December 14. The opening of the event is set to be a glamorous affair with Akshay performing to the tunes of his popular numbers at the renowned O2 Arena here.
The tournament is expected to be lapped up by the expats based across most of the host cities. WKL comes close on the heels of the Pro-Kabaddi League but goes a step further by making the event a global tournament.
The Pakistani participation in the event is another inter sting aspect given the blow hot blow cold political ties between the two countries. Having Pakistani players in an essentially India-backed event is quite significant given that the bilateral sporting ties between the two countries have not been smooth ever since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
Lahore Lions will play their first match against Vancouver Lions on August 10 here. The teams and marquee players: Punjab Thunders - Talwinder Singh; United Singhs - Sukhvir Singh; Haryana Focus - Baldev; California Eagles - Satish Kumar; Yo Yo Tigers - Rupinder Singh; Vancouver Lions - Loveroop Singh; Speedy Singhs - Avtar Singh; Royal Kings - Sujeet Singh.