New Delhi: Thanks to the luck of the draw, India’s sepaktakraw team prepares to keep to its word to finish in the top three of ISTAF SuperSeries INDIA 2013/14, the first round of the internationally-recognised tournament that pits the world’s best teams against one another over four days of gravity-defying, back-flipping and jaw-dropping action.
India, seeded fourth as hosts, has been grouped in Group D alongside only Singapore and is thus assured of a quarter-final berth. Defending champions and number one seeds Thailand is in Group A with Japan and Myanmar while second seeds Malaysia are drawn with the United States and Iran in Group B.
Third seeds South Korea, who came close to staging the biggest upset in ISTAF SuperSeries 2011/12 against Thailand, have Brunei and Indonesia for company in Group C.
“The draw has been extremely kind to us, but it’s going to be a completely different ballgame for us playing in an international tournament in front of home fans,” said captain G. Jiteshor Sharma, who was part of the team to the 2010 Asian Games, the King’s Cup tournament in Thailand in 2010 and 2011 and the inaugural ISTAF SuperSeries 2011/12. “This is a big moment for Indian sepaktakraw but judging from the progress we’ve shown during our training sessions for the past six months, we are confident of making the finals.”
The women’s team, comprising all first-time internationals, however, will face a much tougher route. Seeded fourth, they take on Indonesia and second seeds Vietnam on the opening day, followed by South Korea on Day 2 as part of their Group A fixtures. Group B of the women’s competition comprises defending champions and number one seeds Thailand, third seeds Malaysia and Japan
But the women’s team, as with the men, is no pushover in the international scene. At the 2009 King's Cup in Thailand, India won six medals – three of which, including a gold, came from the men’s team while the women bagged three bronze. Throw in solid support by a strong home crowd, and India could be having an ISTAF SuperSeries 2013/14 tournament to remember.
In both the men’s and women’s competition of ISTAF SuperSeries INDIA 2013/14, only the top two teams from each group advance to the play-off stage based on points accumulated. The second round in the men’s competition is a single elimination, 8-team play-off stage while the women’s is a 4-team play-off stage.
Held for the first time in India, the tournament, which kicks off ISTAF SuperSeries 2013/14, will be contested over four days at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex here from August 29 to September 1.
ISTAF SuperSeries INDIA 2013/14 is created by Asia Sports Ventures (ASV) and supported by local organisers Sepaktakraw Federation of India (STFI). The New Delhi tournament will be followed by ISTAF SuperSeries THAILAND 2013/14 in Bangkok from September 26-29 followed by ISTAF SuperSeries MALAYSIA 2013/14 in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah from October 31 to November 3.
STFI secretary-general, Yogender Singh Dahiya said the tournament would expose more Indians to a game that ‘goes beyond the limits of human abilities”
“Once spectators come to watch our team and the rest of the countries in action and discover the beauty of sepaktakraw, they will not want to leave,” he said. “We expect the crowds to grow larger as the tournament progresses.”
Asia Sports Ventures Director and CEO, Jeff Chue said aside from hosting an ISTAF SuperSeries tournament for the first time, India also had the honour of being the first country to host the elite event outside Southeast Asia.
“India’s hosting of a major sepaktakraw tournament is testament to the game’s growing popularity outside its traditional stronghold of Southeast Asia,” said Chue. “This move is also in line with our strategy to further develop and strengthen the international sepaktakraw footprint on a larger scale in what we see as a growing market for the game.”
He added that ISTAF SuperSeries INDIA 2013/14 will also be televised for the first time throughout the entire Indian sub-continent via Doordarshan and reach over 1.4 billion viewers. Sports fans throughout the region will get to enjoy over eight hours of live TV coverage, as well as selected matches featuring the India men’s and women’s teams.
All in all, ISTAF SuperSeries INDIA 2013/14 will be watched by fans in 70 countries.
India Men's team:
1) G. Jiteshor Sharma (captain)
2) Akash Singh
3) Sanjeck Singh
4) Sandeep Kumar
5) Dheeraj Balan
1) Kh. Bijeta Chanu (captain)