Mohammadreza Shadloui, Fazel Atrachali, and Mohammad Esmail Nabibaksh will play in the Pro Kabaddi League season nine this week after the 13 Iranian players, who missed the start of PKL 9 due to visa issues, have secured passage to India.
ESPN has learnt that the players were flown to Colombo in Sri Lanka over the weekend due to the unavailability of direct flights from Iran to India. "All the players were put up in the same hotel. We had even booked a dummy return ticket back to Iran as a contingency plan," a team official told ESPN.
The dummy tickets were not used as the Sri Lankan Kabaddi Federation offered support and the players got their visas in quick time.
This means that Patna Pirates' Shadloui, who was the best defender last season, has reached Bengaluru and is likely to feature in Tuesday's game against Telugu Titans. Shadloui had put up a story on Instagram on Monday saying "I will be in tomorrow's game and we will show the strength of the Pirates team."
Shadloui was the only foreign player to be retained ahead of PKL9 and played a pivotal role in Patna Pirates' runners-up finish last season.
In fact, Shadloui, Fazel and Nabibakhsh had come to India last month for their teams' pre-season camps but had to go back to Iran since they had come on a tourist visa. Athletes are not allowed to compete in international tournaments on a tourist visa.
Their arrival now will serve as a major boost to the teams, especially Puneri Paltan. The side spent over ₹2 crore to sign their two Iranians and have felt their absence on the mat, particularly missing Fazel's captaincy.
Five players will be reaching Bengaluru on Tuesday evening: Telugu Titans' Hamid Nader, Mohsen Jafari; U Mumba's Heidarali Ekrami, Gholamabbas Korouki and Jaipur Pink Panthers defender Reza Mirbagheri. The rest of the Iranian players will land in the city either on Tuesday or Wednesday.
List of teams with Iranian players
Bengal Warriors - Soleiman Pahlevani
Dabang Delhi - Reza Katoulinezhad
Haryana Steelers - Amirhossein Bastami, Mohammad Maghsoudlou
Jaipur Pink Panthers - Reza Mirbagheri
Patna Pirates - Mohammadreza Shadloui
Puneri Paltan - Fazel Atrachali, Mohammad Nabibakhsh
Telugu Titans - Hamid Nader, Mohsen Jafari
U Mumba - Heidarali Ekrami, Gholamabbas Korouki
UP Yoddha - Abozar Mighani