Interview with Mr Kamal Maharaj, President of the Kho-Kho Federation of South Africa.
How is the game of Kho-Kho played?
Kho-Kho is a running game that is played with two teams consisting of 9 players of any gender. One team is named the running team and the other is the chasing team. When play begins, one player from each team becomes the ‘runner’ and one becomes the ‘chaser.’ A coin is tossed to determine which team will be the running team and which will be the chasing team for the first half.
The game takes place on a field of 30m X 15m in size. A piece of chalk can be used to draw the field of play, or a stick may be used to draw it in sand. All the players from the running team take up their positions in eight 30cm X 30cm boxes that are drawn lengthwise down the centre of the field. Each alternate player faces in the same direction, in other words, every second player faces north and every other player faces south.
Three players from the chasing team take position in the play area, one of whom is nominated to start the chase. He or she then chases the nominated runner from the running team, who runs away from the chaser alongside his team mates who are standing in the boxes.
The runner may shout “Kho!” to one of his team members who are facing in his same running direction at any time during play. The runner may then swap places with that team mate, who then becomes the new ‘runner.’ He or she may run in any direction, as long as they stay inside the playing lines.
The runner is out of the game if he is touched by the chaser, steps outside the playing area, or enters the playing area late. The chaser may not cross the centre line, and may only change direction when he or she reaches the pole at the end of the field.
A score-keeper counts the number of catches and fouls made by the chaser. The fouls are subtracted from the catching points to attain a final score. For example, if the number of catches made comes to 18 and there were 8 fouls, then the final score is 10. If the number of fouls exceeds the number of catches, then the team ends up with a negative score of minus points. The team that ends with the most points is the winner.
Kho-Kho has two halves of seven minutes each, and a two minute interval for the teams to swap positions as ‘runners’ and ‘chasers.’ No substitutes are allowed during play, unless someone is injured. Rough or deliberate tackling is not allowed and may end in disqualification of the player.
What is the purpose behind this game?
The game of Kho-Kho is based on natural principles of physical development. It is a game of vigorous running and it helps to foster a healthy combative spirit among the youth. Kho-Kho gives learners an opportunity to strategise, learn to be a team player, learn to think on the spot and build stamina.
It is a running game, so can it be likened to our popular sport of athletics?
Not really, Kho-Kho is quite different from athletics in that it is a team game that involves two teams that try to outwit each other.
How did Kho-Kho originate?
Kho-Kho originated in India. The game was meant as a recreational pastime for children.
What significance does this game have in South Africa?
Kho-Kho is regarded as a traditional game of Indian people. By this game being shared across cultures, it gives other people a window to Indian sport and insight into their culture. The game can help build bridges between the different cultures.
How does Kho-Kho promote physical activity?
Kho-Kho is a run and chase game, which requires physical prowess. One has to be physically fit to play Kho-Kho well. It calls for physical fitness of a high order; agility; speed; stamina; and a strong purposeful determination in a player.
Which skills are needed for the game?
Players need to have good mental and physical skills. Mental skills include the abilities to think on the spot and strategise. Physical skills include those of running, flexibility, agility and endurance. The game builds both mental and physical stamina.
How does playing this game empower children with specific life skills / knowledge?
Kho-Kho empowers children by teaching them the value of both physical and mental fitness. It teaches them to work as a team and enjoy some healthy competition.
How is Kho-Kho implemented into schools and communities in South Africa?
Kho-Kho has been taught in different communities via the Kho-Kho Federation of South Africa. Many projects were successfully done with the Department of Sport and Recreation South Africa. The SRSA funds the annual National Indigenous Games Festival, whereby all the participants of indigenous games from around the country can compete against each other.
Has this been a successful project? Why?
Yes, projects have been successful in certain areas in helping to promote indigenous games amongst different municipalities. The Federations cannot reach out to all of these areas because of funding. The national games help to maintain regular contact between players and the Federations.
What is the purpose of introducing Kho-Kho back into society?
Recreation and sport helps the youth to be meaningfully occupied, instead of getting involved in meaningless or dangerous activities to pass time. It provides a sense of purpose and achievement. Kho-Kho does not need any equipment, which makes it an easy game to play without necessary resources, as they can play in any open space.
Is this game dominant in a specific province, or is it widely played throughout the country?
Kho-Kho is played mostly in KZN, but it is starting to catch on in all the provinces.
What have been the positive changes recorded in children who have been introduced to Kho-Kho specifically?
They start to enjoy outdoor sport. Physical fitness is once again important to them. Children have found a common goal and something that they can enjoy while reaping the social and physical rewards.