While the whole world seems to be clued into the Olympics and all the action, we decided to digress a little bit. Here’s a list of some of the world’s lesser-known national sports.
Afghanistan – Buzkashi
Buzkashi is the Afghan national sport. It also played among the south Central Asians such as the Uzbeks, Hazaras, Tajiks, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, Turkmens and Pashtuns. It is an ancient game played in Afghanistan and dates back to the days of Ghengis Khan. Now, the Afghans are a hardy race and their sports too echo their love for danger and speed. Buzkashi is often compared to polo. Both games are played between people on horseback, both involve propelling an object toward a goal, and both get fairly rough. However, polo is played with a ball, and buzkashi is played with a headless goat carcass. Polo matches are played for fixed periods totalling about an hour; traditional Buzkashi may continue for days, but in its more regulated tournament version also has a limited match time. In some places in Western China, Buzkashi is played but instead of the goat there is the yak buzkashi.
Spain – Bull Fighting
Bull fighting also known as tauromachia or tauromachy is a traditional spectacle of Spain, Portugal, southern France and some Hispanic American countries (Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru) and the Philippines, in which one or more bulls are baited, and then killed in a bullring for sport and entertainment. This is a show, basically a dance with death —one wrong move and the Matador could become impaled on the horns of the bull. It is the Matador’s job to make this dance dramatic and enjoyable for the audience. The faena continues until the Matador has demonstrated his superiority over the bull. Once this is achieved the bull is ready to be killed. Bullfighting was originally a sport for the aristocracy and took place on horseback. Because of the blood and danger involved in the sport, the number of deaths — to both man and animal increasing every year, the government decided to put an end to it. The last bullfight was held in September 2011 in Barcelona.
Thailand – Muay Thai
Muay Thai is a martial art from Thailand that uses stand-up striking along with various clinching techniques. The word muay derives from the Sanskrit mavya which means “to bind together”. Muay Thai is referred to as the “Art of Eight Limbs” or the “Science of Eight Limbs” because it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, thus using eight “points of contact”, as opposed to “two points” (fists) in boxing and “four points” (hands and feet) used in other more regulated combat sports, such as kickboxing and savate. In the case of Thailand, Muay Thai evolved from the older muay boran (ancient boxing), an unarmed combat method which would have been used by Siamese soldiers after losing their weapons in battle. Like most competitive full contact fighting sports, Muay Thai has a heavy focus on body conditioning. Muay Thai is specifically designed to promote the level of fitness and toughness required for ring competition.
Bahamas – Sloop sailing
Sloop sailing is what you can call the unofficial official sport of the Bahamas. There is a movement now to give it the official status in the country. Sloop sailing is rooted in the Afro-Bahamian culture. Regattas got their start in the 1950s when skippers and owners of local fishing boats (sloops or “smack boats”) got together at various times and inevitably bragged about the speed of their boats and the skills of their crew (and themselves!). The boasting and bragging led to competitions to see who really could claim “braggin’ rights” and not just who had the loudest voice or most vivid imagination. And one thing led to another and official regattas and the one true Bahamian sport were born. Regattas in Bahamas is the most awaited event.
Brazil – Capoeira
Capoeira is a martial art that grew from survival. It was created by slaves brought to Brazil from Africa, during the colonial period. People were brought from Angola, Congo and Mozambique, and with them, they brought their cultural traditions. They hid their martial art and traditions in the form of dance. It is known by quick and complex moves, using mainly power, speed, and leverage for leg sweeps. The martial art aspect is still present and, like old times, is still subtle and disguised, leading many non-practitioners to ignore its presence. Trickery is ever present and expert capoeiristas never take their sights off their opponents in a Capoeira game. Capoeira nowadays is not only a martial art or a small aspect of Brazilian society, but an active exporter of Brazilian culture all over the world.
Philippines – Arnis
Arnis, also known as Eskrima is an indigenous Filipino martial art and sport characterised by the use of swinging and twirling movements, accompanied by striking, thrusting and parrying techniques for defense and offense. This is usually done with the use of one (1) or two (2) sticks or any similar implements or with bare hands and feet also used for striking, blocking, locking and grappling, with the use of the same principle as that with the canes. Arnis which is also known as Kali differs mainly from the other martial arts systems as it teaches empty-handed techniques in the advance stage of training instead of the basic levels. The logic for this is that weapons are only a larger extension of the body and the same footwork and movements are used for armed and unarmed combat.
Argentina – Pato
Pato, also called juego del pato (meaning duck game) is a game played on horseback that combine elements from polo and basketball. Pato is Spanish and Portuguese for “duck”, as early games used a live duck inside a basket instead of a ball. Pato was banned several times during its history due to the violence—not only to the duck; many gauchos were trampled underfoot, and many more lost their lives in knife fights started in the heat of the game. As time went by the duck began to be placed within a basket. In the late 1930s, the sport was revived with new rules. Now two teams of four men on horseback attempt to throw the modern pato, a leather ball with six handles, into one of two baskets at either end of a large field.
Colombia – Tejo
What do steel projectiles, screaming men, and explosives have in common? The answer is the national sport of Colombia: Tejo. Never heard of it? It is played by throwing a metal plate or disc spotted with gun powder, named tejo, weighing about 680 g at a target so as to make it strike the “mechas” (folded paper). There is a stringent point system in place. Alternatively, in a recreational context, people play different point variations of the game, usually betting the bill of the tejo arena which includes the use of the arena, as well as the beverages and food of every participant in a particular match. The sport is taught alongside soccer in elementary schools in Boyaca, and university students there study what constitutes perfect throwing form.