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Achievements, in brief
Monu Goyat, the raider whose auction money was more than the takings of some foreign IPL cricketers, has big dreams for his India debut
On an ugly summer afternoon when the heat rises like smoke from the road, we are driving towards Monu Goyat’s home in Hansi, a small town in Haryana’s Hissar district. We ask for directions and he sends a location pin on WhatsApp but we still need help finding the place. The name Monu Goyat has instant recall. A store owner asks, “Woh Pro Kabaddiwale?” and shows us the way.
Hansi is a historical town with Asigarh fort as one of the main tourist attractions but last month, the 25-year-old Army havaldar made his own history when he was bought for Rs 1.51 crore by Haryana Steelers at the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) auction. The sum was a 62% leap from last year’s record bid of Rs 93 lakh for Nitin Tomar. Several IPL cricketers — like Kiwi seamer Tim Southee and hard-hitting England pros Jason Roy and Sam Billings — earned less this year.
Goyat’s record-breaking fee was settled after furious bidding by three persistent suitors: Dabang Delhi, U Mumba and Haryana Steelers. Iran’s charismatic Fazal Atrachali was the lone foreigner to rake in over Rs 1 crore. Social media was in awe. Virender Sehwag tweeted, “Great to see kabaddi getting the attention it deserved.”
Goyat is the hottest kid on the block. He was introduced to the game at nine by his uncle, Vijender Singh, who missed a ticket to the 1990 Beijing Games after a knee injury. Goyat grew up in Kungar village in Bhiwani district, which has produced national-level coaches and players. “He was pretty agile. Which is why I asked him to take up the sport. Within two years, it was obvious that he could become a very good raider,” recalls Singh, whom Goyat describes as “my first guru”.
In kabaddi, raiders invade rival territory and score points by touching as many opposition players as they can. A good raider is a happy blend of speed, swift movement and power. Goyat, say observers, personifies modern kabaddi: more brain than brawn.
Players like him had small dreams in pre-PKL days. “We played for a job. Jyada paise ki ummeed nahi thi. Koi league to tha nahi,” says Goyat, a farmer’s son. His father owns eight acres of land. “We could sustain ourselves but money was often in short supply,” he says. Winning intervillage tournaments, even though the prize money was usually less than Rs 31,000, raised his profile. Graduating from college boosted his confidence.
In 2010, he was the only one selected from the sports quota in an Army selection trial. He played in towns like Goregaon, Indore and Madurai, gaining invaluable exposure. “Sometimes, after winning a crunch game, I was carried off the ground by spectators,” he says. His winnings included two motorbikes: a Bajaj Platina and a TVS Suzuki.
Professional reasons kept him out of the first three editions of the PKL. But he was snapped up for Rs 18 lakh by Bengal Warriors in the fourth and for Rs 44.5 lakh by Patna Pirates in the fifth. The money helped his family move to a double-storeyed home in Hansi two years ago. A gleaming white Hyundai Creta bought in January stands inside. He hasn’t decided what to do with Rs 1.51 crore. “Some of it might be spent on my elder brother’s marriage,” he says hesitantly.
Goyat makes his India debut with the national squad in the Dubai Kabaddi Masters this month. The Jakarta Asian Games are in August. Goyat wants to ensure that India stays at the summit. “As a kabaddi player and an Armyman, that’s what I would like to do for my country.”