The true champion

"I grew up in Kolhapur district, in Maharashtra, where Kabaddi was the game everybody rooted for. On weekends, my father and our neighbours would play Kabbadi and I would be the youngest player in their teams. Although I was interested in athletics - long jump and shot put - it was Kabaddi that truly had my heart. Somehow, because I was good at academics, everyone seemed to expect me to have a regular desk job. So, I finished my Bachelors in Sciences (Physics), joined the army and served for two years. It was only when I moved to Pune for training, that my Kabbadi journey began. I was very lucky initially. I had to train a lot and fortunately, I had a wonderful coach in the club in Baner, who taught me not just the game but sportsmanship as well. After four years of rigorous training, when I was finally selected for Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) in U Mumba, I had doubts about my own performance. I didn't realise how big a deal it was until the tournament came close. I was nervous, but I wanted to give my best. On the day of my debut, I entered the stadium and the moment the match started, I cut myself off. I didn't think about the viewers, the cameras or the commentary. My goal was to make the best of this one chance and prove myself. And boy, what a match it was! I scored 15 points against Pune - I couldn't have asked for a better debut. I was elated and played my guitar for long hours that night. When I first started to learn the guitar during my training days at Pune, I remember how people told me I should concentrate only on kabaddi and not other things. But music is my escape - whether I win or lose a match, I go back to my music and sing. It helps me channelize my emotions and focus better.

That debut season, however, brought me overwhelming fame and attention, which I wasn't used to. That way I learnt my biggest lesson - to mute everything around me and focus on my game.
Afterall, Kabbadi is not just a game of strength and power but also focus and I learnt this lesson young. My older brother, a professional Kabbadi Player himself, who continues to be my biggest inspiration and favourite sportsperson, always taught me that Kabbadi is about strategy, time management, calculation, fitness and training. One small mistake in the 30 seconds you get and you lose a point, eventually the match and the season.

This season, I plan to be more careful and fill the shortcomings I've had in the past. It's all the more exciting for me because my brother is going to play his first PKL this season. We might be the best of brothers and very close, but the moment we're on the field, we're all about winning the match for our team!”

Watch Siddharth Desai raid for Telugu Titans against U Mumba in @prokabaddi season 7 opener starting 7 PM tonight on @starsportsindia and @Hotstar
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