Is this the most imaginative use of the training budget yet? British Army team loses in kabaddi, but wins hearts Published on November 20, 2007 by IANSViewed 16 times Every time a 'gora' (white man) was felled, raising the dust, there was a loud cheer. And every time the goras pinned down an Indian opponent, the applause was no less. This was the spectacle at a rural sports ground in Parasrampur village near here this weekend as a British Army team tried its hands with kabaddi, a traditional sport of Punjab. Novices to the hard world of kabaddi - which requires body and breath to hold together to survive - the British Army team lost all the matches it played in Jalandhar, Delhi and Mumbai but won hearts of hundreds of Indians who watched it play and fight hard. The crowds were not only amused by the determination of the British soldiers to adapt to the traditional Indian sport but also to the heavily accented tone of "kabaddi kabaddi" that every player had to utter. "People were so warm. Everyone wanted to shake hands with us. They cheered for our team well," said vice captain Nick Burdick. In a match against the Indian Army team played in Delhi last week, the British team lost narrowly - 35points to 32. And to think they have been tuned into this game just four months ago tells you that they were here to test the waters. "The positive point, after losing some of the matches narrowly, is that we have been able to understand the finer points of the game. Next time when you will see us around, you will find a different team, more aggressive and technically sound," said John Craig, a sergeant and the British Army team captain. Kabaddi is played between two teams comprising seven players each. The teams take turns sending a "raider" across to the opposite team's half where the goal is to tag or wrestle with members of the opposite team before returning to the home half. All the while, the raider has to hold his breath and chant "kabaddi kabaddi". Tagged members are "out" and are sent off the field. To get the finer points in place even before the team landed in India for the matches, the British team employed the services of Ashok Dass, a former national kabaddi player from India who settled in England over two decades ago. "Some of the army men had seen Indian immigrants in England playing kabaddi and got fascinated. Initially, the British Army was not too keen on having an official team. But later they agreed when they were convinced that the game could be good for physical fitness," Dass, who accompanied the team, pointed out. The entire nine-member playing team is British while two officials, including Dass, are India-born. The team comprises all ranks - from gunners, bombardiers and sergeants to captains and majors. "The soldiers have suddenly got this feeling that there is more to sports than just football and cricket," said team manager A.L. Reid. Unlike their Indian opponents who played barefoot, the British team members could be seen wearing light sports shoes and sneakers. For the organisers of kabaddi matches, the Mata Chanan Kaur Dhanoa Sports Championship Tournament, the visit of the British team was an interesting event. Said organiser H.S. Dhanoa: "For the local spectators, there was thrill in watching the British side play kabaddi. Their accented pronunciation of kabaddi made things even more interesting!"