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England win twice in Bangladesh at Bangabandhu Cup 2023!

England Kabaddi had a successful trip to the sub-continent winning two games and losing three at the Bangabandhu Cup 2023. This is how it happened.

On Friday 10th March the England Kabaddi squad set off from London Heathrow arriving the next day in Dhaka, Bangladesh via Qatar. We were warmly welcomed by the Bangladesh Kabaddi Federation who were excellent hosts and we were very grateful to be in their company. Saturday 11th March was mostly a day for rest and settling in to the hotel, with other teams also arriving throughout the day.

England Squad for the Bangabandhu Cup 2023

Back row: Vinay Gupta, Thomas Dawtrey, Kishan Mistry (Coach), Keshav Gupta, Oishik Raha (Manager), Philip Mottram, Shreyas Annadate

Front row: Ahilan Parthipan, Yuvraj Pandeya, Someshwar Kalia (Captain), Sanjay Patel (President), Felix Li, Mahesh Popat, Akul Purohit

Sunday 12th March - Manger Meeting, Weigh In, Press Conference & Training

Sunday started off with a meeting where all the managers, coaches and captains attended with Bangladesh Kabaddi Federation delegates present too. This is where we found out the schedule and groups for the tournament. We got selected into a group with Bangladesh, Iraq, Nepal, Poland and Argentina. An interesting mix of teams from across the world.

Next on the agenda was the weigh in. The players had to weigh in under 85kg otherwise they would not be allowed to participate in the competition. We had several players that just weighed in below 85kg much to the relief of the management.

After the weigh in was the press conference where England would be represented by the captain, Someshwar. Here there was a photoshoot with the trophy and press questions for each of the captains. The matches were going to be broadcast live on T Sports a national television channel in Bangladesh as well as being streamed live on YouTube.

In the late afternoon England trained at the practice pitches which are just outside the stadium. Despite being in the late afternoon temperatures were still around thirty degrees and there is no air conditioning on the practice pitches. So it was a tough session for the players. However, it was vital to get the team practicing together as a couple of the players were returning from a training camp in India, namely Felix and Yuvraj.

Monday 13th March - Opening Ceremony, First Matches of the Tournament

On Monday we collectively decided it would be better not to train and take rest in the morning and relax in the afternoon also. In the hotel there is a pool table and gym which keeps the players entertained. Players brought some cards and a Nintendo Switch with them to keep entertained also.

In the afternoon we travelled to the stadium to get ready for the opening ceremony. First, we had to do a rehearsal where all 12 participating countries lined up on the practice pitches and then walked into the stadium one by one as they were called. The stadium was fairly busy as the first match would be between Bangladesh and Poland.

After the rehearsal it was time for the real thing and for a few of the players it was their first experience of an international televised tournament with flashing lights and cameras. No doubt, it was a wow moment. After the walk on, there were speeches by guests of honour and the president of the Bangladesh Kabaddi Federation. Then the first match started and we able to watch from the sides. Bangladesh beat Poland comfortably in the end despite a strong fight from the Poles. In the second match we were wowed by the technical skill of Chinese Taipei as they beat one of the tournament favourites Kenya!

Tuesday 14th March - England v Poland

England 38-35 Poland

Starting seven: Someshwar Kalia (C), Keshav Gupta, Shreyas Annadate, Felix Li, Yuvraj Pandeya, Philip Mottram, Vinay Gupta

Substitutes used: None

Substitutes unused: Thomas Dawtrey, Ahilan Parthipan, Mahesh Popat, Akul Purohit

Finally, after three days in Bangladesh it was time for our first match of the tournament! England v Poland represents a heavyweight European clash with both teams claiming to be the best in Europe. The morning was relaxed where we had an analysis session held by the coach, Kishan and we set off for the match in the afternoon. We held a warm up on the practice pitches and then after what seemed like ages, we lined up ready to walk on for our first match. After the walk on we sang the national anthem with our heart and the game got underway.

The match was played with high intensity and great commitment. England asserted their dominance early with raiders Keshav and Shreyas picking up touch points and bonus points. The defence was also working well together with combination tackles from both covers Felix and Yuvraj. England soared into a first half lead with Shreyas picking up the all-important all out with a four point raid. From then on England controlled the game, despite Poland's best-efforts England kept them at arm's length courtesy of Philip's crucial two point raid and Yuvraj's clutch tackles. The first half score was 16-25 to England.

In the second half England carried on where they left off maintaining at least a seven point gap through most of the second half. Unfortunately, Shreyas picked up a knee injury and couldn't continue. This left England with just a few players on the pitch, but we had enough of a points margin to see the game out despite a spirited comeback from Poland. England won the European derby, the final score England 38-35 Poland.

Shreyas was announced as man of the match and we all had a celebratory photo on the practice pitch. The evening was all about resting as we had another match the next day.

Wednesday 15th March - Nepal v England

Nepal 39-24 England

Starting seven: Someshwar Kalia (C), Keshav Gupta, Thomas Dawtrey, Yuvraj Pandeya, Philip Mottram, Vinay Gupta

Substitutes used: Mahesh Popat, Ahilan Parthipan, Akul Purohit

Substitutes unused: Shreyas Annadate

We were dealt with a blow by the news that Shreyas would be injured and unable to play further part in the tournament. However, we were still carrying momentum from our victory against Poland. Nepal was a different proposition altogether since they were an Asian team playing the sport semi-professionally. No doubt they were technically better and well-practiced. However, we gave them a very good fight with Tom stepping up in place of Shreyas. Ahilan, Mahesh and Akul all came on at various times in the match to get some needed game time.

Unfortunately we started the match on the wrong foot and Nepal secured an all out quite quickly in the first half. Then they got a second all out as we struggled to keep pace with their defence and raiding. But there was also an element of us giving them too much respect. The half time score was 23-7 to Nepal.

In the second half we played much better, Keshav and Vinay were scoring raid points and the defence was firing too. A fantastic dash by Keshav early in the second half set the tone for what was to become a spirited fightback. Soon after Vinay picked up a super raid. The pattern continued with the defence making some great tackles and the raiders making sure that Nepal did not get a third all out. In fact, England won the second half however the lead was too much to claw back and the final score was 39-24 to Nepal.

Thursday 16th March - Rest Day

Thankfully, there was a change in schedule which meant the group games were extended to an extra day. This allowed for a much-needed rest day for the players. There was to be no training or matches for the players but we still had them carry out stretches to aid recovery.

In the evening we attended the stadium to watch the other matches that were taking place. We were impressed by the talents of teams like Thailand and Sri Lanka. These teams were clearly well drilled and well coached, with some of these players playing the game professionally in leagues such as the Pro Kabaddi League in India.

Friday 17th March - Bangladesh v England

Bangladesh 55-27 England

Starting seven: Someshwar Kalia (C), Keshav Gupta, Philip Mottram, Yuvraj Pandeya, Ahilan Parthipan, Vinay Gupta

Substitutes used: Mahesh Popat, Thomas Dawtrey

Substitutes unused: Shreyas Annadate, Akul Purohit

England had great depth in their squad and so there was scope to make changes throughout the tournament. For the Bangladesh match Ahilan came into the starting seven in place of Tom. We went into the Bangladesh match with a mindset that we had nothing to lose. And this worked for the first few minutes of the match where we secured a super tackle early on and kept the score to just 7-7.

However, Bangladesh stepped up their game with Tuhin and Mizan scoring a few raid points against us as they secured the first all out. England were troubled by the excellent Bangladesh defence and the speed and trickery of their raiders. Bangladesh scored a second all out later in the first half and the half time score was 29-10 to Bangladesh.

Tom came on in the first half and Mahesh came on the second half because of an unfortunate injury to Yuvraj. But both came on and settled into the defence well making and supporting tackles. Keshav managed to pull off a super tackle with Ahilan's support which was a cause for celebration however Bangladesh was strong in all areas and won the match 55-27.

Saturday 18th March - England v Argentina

England 41-37 Argentina

Starting seven: Someshwar Kalia (C), Keshav Gupta, Thomas Dawtrey, Yuvraj Pandeya, Ahilan Parthipan, Vinay Gupta

Substitutes used: None

Substitutes unused: Mahesh Popat, Philip Mottram, Shreyas Annadate, Akul Purohit

Yuvraj was okay to start in the next match against Argentina and Tom came into the starting seven in place of Phil. We started the match on the wrong foot probably still battered and bruised from the encounter with Bangladesh the previous day. Argentina had already lost all their games coming into this match and it was clear that they were willing to give it everything. Argentina secured the first all out thanks to some great raiding and missed tackles by England. The first half got worse after Argentina scored a four point raid and then they got the second all out with their raider Pascual fighting to get over the line. The first half score was 18-27 to Argentina, we were still keeping within distance of the score thanks to Keshav and Vinay scoring many bonus points on their raids.

The second half started with some excellent tacking by Felix as England started to close down the lead. Keshav then scored an excellent two point raid and subsequent single point raids to whittle Argentina down. Ahilan secured the all out with an excellent tackle as England took the lead for the first time in the match. Keshav kept Argentina at arms-length scoring single point raids and a final tackle from Tom secured the match as England won 41-37 with a terrific comeback.

Keshav Gupta won man of the match for his spirited performance and supreme raiding skills helping to produce a fine comeback for England.

Sunday 19th March - Iraq v England

Iraq 47-36 England

Starting seven: Someshwar Kalia (C), Keshav Gupta, Thomas Dawtrey, Yuvraj Pandeya, Ahilan Parthipan, Vinay Gupta

Substitutes used: Mahesh Popat, Philip Mottram, Akul Purohit

Substitutes unused: Shreyas Annadate

Because of how results transpired we mathematically still had a chance to reach the semi-finals with a large victory against Iraq however the points difference we had to make up was quite unrealistic. Therefore we just concentrated on trying our best to win the match against Iraq. The same starting seven was chosen that produced the fine comeback against Argentina.

The match started off very evenly with England scoring raid points and defence points. However, the raiding from Iraq was quick and tricky to deal with. After the early exchanges where both teams were assessing the defences, Iraq made the breakthrough securing the all out against England to take the lead. This made the first half score 23-16 to Iraq.

Iraq then turned up the heat in the second half and secured the second all out to build a much greater lead of fourteen points. Akul came on in the second half to help secure the defence which allowed Someshwar to raid and he picked up several raid points with Keshav and Vinay also scoring points. This helped to close the gap however Iraq had more experience and were able to hold on to their lead, the final score being 47-36 to Iraq.

Monday 20th March - Museum, Restaurant, Semi Finals

On Monday we were needed to attend a museum of the first President of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. It was actually his personal house which turned into a museum after his assassination. There was a really cool part which included a hologram video which was nice to see.

After the museum visit, we went to a restaurant called Santoor which was lovely. Many of us were fed up with the hotel food which is nice for a few days but then the buffet starts to get repetitive. Most of us did not have Delhi Belly so we could enjoy the restaurant food to its fullest. It was also a celebration of the great performances the players produced in winning two matches out of five and competing at the highest level in the three other matches.

In the evening we attended the semi-finals which were contested between Bangladesh, Thailand, Iraq and Chinese Taipei. Both matches were quite one sided with Bangladesh and Chinese Taipei beating Thailand and Iraq respectively.

Tuesday 21st March - National Language Monument, Final

In the morning the captain and president, Someshwar and Sanjay, visited the national language monument which was dedicated to the Bengali language movement. This was a nice event with the other managers and captain of the other eleven teams. There was also a sad moment as we realised it was the last day of the tournament.

In the afternoon it was time for the final between Bangladesh and Chinese Taipei. Despite a spirited effort by Chinese Taipei who already wowed everyone with how far they came Bangladesh built a lead and kept them at bay to win the match. Bangladesh won it for the third time in a row! They were well deserved winners as they have talent in defence and raiding, it really is the job of the other teams to get better and challenge them for the title.

We grabbed photos with those that we made friends with along the course of the tournament and the players swapped their own personal shirts to get some of the shirts of the opponents which was a nice touch. England would be leaving in the very early hours of Wednesday 22nd March, arriving in London later that evening.

England had a very successful tournament winning two matches and filled us with motivation to get better and stronger. And a final thank you to our sponsors Warrior Energy Drink who have supported us over the last two years.


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