Fazel Atrachali: It's not easy to be a standout player in India

Jun 10, 2018, 08:02 IST | Kusumita Das

Iranian player Fazel Atrachali who left soccer for kabbadi on making his mark in a competitive country

Fazel Atrachali: It's not easy to be a standout player in India
Fazel Atrachali

While kabaddi is known to have had its origins in India, recent years have seen a bunch of talents emerge in the sport from foreign shores. Gorgan, in Iran, saw the beginnings of kabaddi around 22 years ago. It's this province in Northern Iran that Fazel Atrachali calls home. The Iranian defender has been a force to reckon with in the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), ever since he joined the U Mumba team in 2014. He went on to play for Patna Pirates and Gujarat Fortune Giants before returning to U Mumba this year, for a whopping '1 crore, the highest bid ever fetched by an overseas player in the tournament's history. In an email interview the 26-year-old spoke about his tryst with kabaddi.

Excerpts from the interview:

How does it feel to be at the top after four years?
This is sweet success. I first came into PKL in season 2 at a humble price of just '4 lakhs. And yes, that made me a little sad. Another Iranian player had a better contract than me. I was not jealous, but I did want a good contract. So, I decided that I must work really hard, show everyone how strong a player I am and then the rewards would follow. It's not easy to become a standout player in India, since there are so many great players here. But now I am happy.

What's your life like back in Iran?
I was born in Mohamad Avad village near Gorgan city, which is in the north of Iran. We still live there. My father and brother were soccer players, while my grandfather and both uncles were wrestlers. I was initiated into wrestling when I was seven; wrestling is like Iran's cricket. I did that for three years, but had to stop when my coach moved to another city. I then played judo for another two years. I even won gold medals for my state. Soccer followed judo, and I was selected in the city team. But, I did not enjoy it much. I did not like playing with a ball.

How did kabaddi happen?
The first time I saw a kabaddi match was in my village around 22 years ago. Someone selected a few wrestlers to play the game. One of the first players there was Gholamreza Mazandarani, who is now the coach of U Mumba. I found the game both funny and interesting. Seeing kabaddi made me leave soccer. I was a good soccer player, and everyone told me not to leave, as there was more money in soccer. But, I couldn't continue playing a sport I did not enjoy.

What's your core strength, and what would you like to improve?
I think my power is my strength. My weakness I can't tell you, because it's a secret.

Your PKL journey has seen both highs and lows. What have been your lessons?
There are many. But, most importantly, I've learnt that to win we must play like a team. It's not important to have top players. It's working well together that wins matches in kabaddi.

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