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Pro Panja League to kick-off in Delhi

The inaugural edition would feature 180 players divided into six teams, who would compete in 10 weight categories. Besides the men and the women’s teams, specially-abled arm wrestlers will also compete in the league. Here’s what is in store for viewers…

As a child, you must have played panja (arm wrestling) with your friends and siblings. But do you know that you can watch players from all across the country compete in this game live? The first season of Pro Panja League is set to take place from July 28 to August 13 at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, New Delhi. It will feature 180 Indian professional players, who would compete for a trophy and a prize money.

The league would include 10 weight categories: six different ones for men, three for women and one for specially-abled players.

Unlike boxing and weightlifting, where each round is timed, players will not race against the time. They would, however, need to complete five rounds within a specific time frame.

Pravin Dabbas, Founder, Pro Panja League, who co-owns the league with his wife Preeti Jhangiani, shares, “All rounds will not be timed. But 30 minutes will be given to finish five rounds with a minute of break between the rounds. This means it may take a few seconds or even 3-4 minutes for a round to complete. There will be a challenge round, where we will give players a timer. Players will get an opportunity to collect bonus points if they defeat their opponent within a few seconds.”

Though panja has been played professionally in India for more than four decades but getting a league is the first-of-a-kind for players.

Jhangiani points that the panja federation used to hold amateur tournaments in India but there was never a professional league in India. “There was a professional league in America called ‘The Wall’ but it has not conducted any tournaments after COVID-19,” she adds.

Through the Pro Panja League, the owners aim to help players compete professionally. The league is also a platform for players coming from economically-weaker sections to get the right guidance.

“Players from economically-weaker sections face a gamut of challenges starting from the right guidance on nutrition and training. We help them with on these subjects and give them the chance to train under some of the best coaches,” shares Jhangiani.

Selection of the players

Despite being its maiden edition, all players are selected carefully through a rigorous process. A Ranking Tournament was held in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh last year, where ~700 players competed against each other and were awarded ranks based on their performance.

Sharing its details, Dabbas, explains, “We chose the players after they proved their mettle in the game at all levels. Ranks were awarded on the basis of performance. For instance, the winner of the tournament was given the first rank and its competitor in the final was given the second rank, and so on.”

Nostalgia with panja

When asked why he chose panja over other sports, Dabbas reveals that his love for the game dates back to his childhood days.

“I have played it as a child and it is the only sport that is played across India, irrespective of the gender, geographical location and economic background of a person. I also like that it does not require any special kit like pads, rackets, bats and shoes, which are otherwise essential in other sports. That’s what pumped me to invest in this sport,” he clarifies.

Pro Panja League will stream on Sony Sports 1 and Sony Sports 1 HD channels. Sports lovers can also cheer for their favourite players at the stadium free of cost. Due to limited seats, entry will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Rules of the game

  • Players get 30 seconds to grip each other’s hand. In case they fail to do so, referee sets the players’ arms.

  • In case a player’s hand slips out, a strap is placed around the players’ hands. This is called a strap match.

  • Both players are required to rest their elbow and hold the slab and in case they fail to do so, a foul is issued against them.

  • Each player will be judged for its performance in the best of five rounds.

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