When the award to be received by the Guru was given to the disciple first

Yes, you read that right. To date, only five coaches in the field of Kabaddi have received the Dronacharya Award from the Government of India. One of the five coaches, however, had to wait a long time to receive the award. So much so that only one of his disciples received the Dronacharya award before him. Who is this coach and what is his story? Let’s take a look.

Kabaddi was included in the Asian Games in 1990. Rambir Singh Khokar was India’s coach just a month before the tournament. At that time, he was also an employee of the Sports Authority of India. In the run-up to the Asian Games, a dispute arose between the managements of the Amateur Kabaddi Federation of India and the Sports Authority for some reason. This resulted in Khokar losing his job as India coach. He was replaced by E Prasad Rao as the coach of the Indian Kabaddi team. Under Prasad’s guidance, the Indian team won the gold in Kabaddi. It was the only gold medal won by India in that Asian Games. Later in 2002, Rao was honoured by the Government of India with the Dronacharya Award. He became the first kabaddi coach to receive this award.

It took Khokar another five years to re-establish his influence at the national level. During this time he was working as a coach in the Sports Authority of India. He coached India during the first Asian Kabaddi Championship in 1987. Thirty years later, he was appointed as the coach of the Indian team at the 10th Asian Kabaddi Championships. In both these competitions, India won gold medals. This may be the only example of a single man coaching a team in different editions of the same tournament played over a span of thirty years.

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During this time Khokar guided many players. One of his disciples, Balwan Singh, later coached India at the Asian Championships and the World Cup. Balkar Singh, a disciple of Khokar, received the Dronacharya award in 2005. Guru Khokar, however, had to wait till 2019 to get the same award. Despite this, Khokar has no complaints about it. “I am happy to receive this award and to see that my work is being noticed even though late,” he said. Khokar has coached Patna Pirates and Haryana Steelers in Pro Kabaddi.

Image: facebook/rambirsingh.khokhar