Express & Star

Rowley Regis' Yuvraj Pandeya excelling in Kabaddi and hoping to inspire others

From accounting to the Pro Kabaddi League in India, Yuvraj Pandeya has climbed his way to the top and is hoping to inspire a new generation.


The 25-year-old, from Rowley Regis, began playing kabaddi as a teenager through Hindu organisation HSS, and has since thrived being picked up by the England Kabaddi Association.

Purchased by Dabang Delhi for more than £12,000 to play in the most watched kabaddi league in the world, and the second watched league in India after the IPL cricket league – the former accountant is extremely proud of his journey.

“I never imagined when I was a teenager that I’d be in the biggest professional league for kabbadi in the world, but here we are,” he said. “It was just played as a hobby. I’ve come here as a professional but in the UK it’s not a full time thing.

“It was a complete shock. I am very proud of myself. I played in a few international tournaments for England but the level of kabaddi there is different to the level in the pro kabaddi league. The level is different.

“We had an international tournament in April in Bangladesh and I represented England there. Two spots were offered to England and players in the auction and he was one of them put forward. Before I came here I had to quit my job as it’s a long season.

“I’m very proud to represent England. My family and family friends are very proud of me and it’s hard to put into words what it feels like.

“Hopefully people in the UK and West Midlands will see there are local players playing for England and that there’s the potential to play in the biggest league.”

Kabaddi – a contact sport played between two teams of seven players – originates in ancient India. It has been described as a kind of team tag in which a single raider tries to touch as many members of the opposition before returning without being captured.

Pandeya enjoys the competitiveness and physical nature of the sport as he’s reached the ultimate goal.

He said: “During school times I was quite small, so I did play rugby here and there, but it probably wasn’t the first thing I’d have gone for.

“When I started playing kabaddi, I got into it and have grown to the fact of the physical nature. It’s quite fun.

“This is probably the peak. The goal is to play with the best, improve my skills and come back to the UK, share it amongst other players, and play at other international events. Hopefully I’ll come back to the league in the next few years.

“In India, kabaddi is on a different level. People know the sport and when they see you as part of the team, they’re taking pictures and asking for autographs.

“For myself, I’m just used to working a 9-5 accounting job, so doing this and getting fame from the sport is completely different.”

Following his participation in the Indian Kabaddi Pro League, Pandeya will be playing internationally in Bangladesh and representing England.

Being selected came as a huge surprise for the 25-year-old and his family, as Pandeya had to train hard before joining the Dabang Delhi squad.

“Our names got put forward in the auction and we thought okay great, but because of the calibre of players I never expected it,” said the former accountant.

“When I woke up in the morning I thought let me just check how the auction is going on, not really thinking anything of it, but then got a message from the England manager saying congratulations and it was a shock.

“For my mum it was a complete shock. At the start she was saying don’t go, but I don’t think she understood the level that I’d been selected for.

“When she had family and friends calling her to pass on congratulations because they knew how big the league was she was proud and I was as well.

“When our names got put forward in the auction and I was successful it was three or four weeks of intense training and doing as much as I can so I didn’t feel out of place when I got here.

“In the UK I’m only used to playing the sport on occasions, and I go to the gym to keep fitness, but here the guys playing at this level play every single day and have done so for 10 or 15 years. It’s tiring but I’m getting used to it now.”