Gujarat Fortunegiants have been in scintillating form in Season 5 of VIVO Pro Kabaddi and remained undefeated in their home leg. One of the pillars of their success this year has been a strong defence led by Iranian Fazel Atrachali. A champion last season with Patna Pirates, Atrachali became the first foreign player to score 100 tackle points in the league earlier in the campaign.

Speaking to recently, Atrachali revealed what it takes to succeed in VIVO Pro Kabaddi from a defender’s point of view. “First, you need to have a plan as to what to do. It is different for every raider. And all raiders are different. If you have only one tackle or if you have just one or two attacks, it'll be a problem. Because raiders will know you very easily. For instance, they will identify that Fazel only has the ankle hold and so in the next match, they would plan for you. But if you have quite a few skills in your repertoire, like diving, block, lift, and of course, ankle hold, it'll be good for you in Pro Kabaddi,” he said.

The defensive powerhouse also shed light on his village, according to him a focal point in the kabaddi history of Iran. “In my village kabaddi is popular. Kabaddi in Iran started from my village, in the north of the country. It's Muhamadabad, the name. There are a lot of kabaddi players in my village, including two from my family. Before kabaddi, I also played wrestling, judo. Defence in kabaddi is like wrestling, because in wrestling too you have an ankle hold, diving or lift. That's why I came to kabaddi. I like the challenge,” Atrachali said.

When asked how popular the sport was back home, he said: “Of course [it is popular but] it's not like India. In Iran, overall 50 percent of the population knows what kabaddi is. But in my city, everybody knows what kabaddi is. Because if kabaddi is a game of 12 players, then eight of them in the national team are from my city.”

Even though he may come across as an aggressor on the mat, Atrachali revealed how he loves to spend his downtime in nature and tranquil environments. “In my free time, I always call my friends. We go to forest for 4-5 days to have fun. The phone is off, without network or the internet. Only free mind, far away from people. It’s a very, very normal life in the forest (laughs). Out night sleeping in the forest, I like all this,” he concluded.