The Indian men’s regu team lost to Thailand 0-2. But India picked up a bronze medal as both the losing semifinalists were also awarded a medal.
It was a ‘victory in defeat’ for the Indian men’s sepak takraw team. India settled for its maiden Asian Games bronze medal in this sport. They were beaten by a formidable Thailand in the semi-finals.
Sepak Takraw is one of the least heard sports in India. Still now more than half of the population doesn’t even know about this sport’s existence. So to win India’s first ever medal in this sport is a big achievement for this team. Sepak takraw, which directly translates to kick the ball, has been part of the Games program since 1990. India has participated in this sport since the 2006 edition. The sport has a huge following in the South East Asian countries and India is slowly catching with them. Thailand has won a whopping 22 gold medals at the Games and Myanmar is a distant second in the list with five gold.
The Indian team trained in Thailand for the past two months. This training made a huge difference, according to chief coach Hem Raj. Eight of the 12 members of the squad are from Manipur and the rest are from Delhi. The sport is quite popular in Manipur. It is primarily because of its proximity to Myanmar.
“Yes, that is how the sport became so popular in Manipur. It is close to Myanmar and it has always been easy to source equipment from there. Now we use synthetic balls but back in the day, we used to get balls made of bamboo. That was the traditional way of playing the sport,” said another team official Muhindro Singh Thokchom.
The men’s team is not done yet and promises another medal in regu. The women’s team failed to win a medal but they too are improving fast. “We should have a women’s medal in the next edition. As I said, we are only going to up from here,” summed chief coach Raj, who has already set his sights on a World Championship medal next month.