With new sports being added to the Olympics on a regular basis, the rise of the X-Games, and ESPN highlights dedicated to every sporting event within view of a camera, we enjoy a wide understanding of the different games played around the world. But there are still plenty of games that haven’t travelled much farther than their home countries. Here are four popular games from around the world that you may not be familiar with.
Kabaddi is a contact sport from India during which all the action takes place within a single breath – literally. Traditionally a children’s game, kabaddi is played in elementary schools across India and Asia. The game consists of two teams of seven and is played on a court approximately 30 feet wide and 40 feet long. On each play, known as a raid, a single player from the attacking team enters the opposing team’s court and attempts to tag as many players as possible while avoiding being tackled by opponents. The player must then return safely to his own side to score points – one point per player tagged.
While their teammate is on the other side of the court, the attacking team must chant “kabaddi” until they run out of breath, to ensure that the play happens within a single breath. The sport has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years with the rise of professional leagues, with minor alterations to the rules, such as the use of a shot clock.
Luta de Galo
This fun Brazilian game’s name means “the fight of the rooster” and can be played with as few as two players. All that is required is a handkerchief for each player. The handkerchief is tied around the waistband of each player in a manner that it can be removed with little effort, like in flag football.
Players must cross their right hand across their chest and raise their left foot, then proceed to hop around on their right foot while they try and grab the opposing player’s handkerchief. Everyone who puts their left leg down or uncrosses their right arm to stay balanced is out, and the last rooster standing is the winner.
While not a specific game itself, boules is the term used for a wide variety of games played across Europe. The common denominator of boules games is that the objective is to get large, heavy balls as close as possible to a smaller target ball, not dissimilar to how the game of horseshoes is played in the United States.
Boules-type games are typically played in open courts dedicated to boules and made of crushed stone, flattened earth, gravel or sand and equipped with backboards or enclosed by wooden rails. Alternatively, boules games are often played in public areas with enough room to accommodate them, such as a town square, parks, or beaches.
Boules games have been traced back to the 6th century B.C., with evidence that the Ancient Greeks played them with rounded stones. Romans adopted the game and added the small target ball, and the Middle Ages saw stone balls replaced by wooden balls in many parts of Europe.
King Henry III famously banned the game in the 14th century to encourage archery practice, and this ban remained in place throughout some regions of both England and France until the 17th century.
Common variations on boule games today include bocce, in which the ball is rolled; petanque, for which the ball is thrown underhand; boule lyonnaise, where the balls are constructed out of leather stuffed with soft materia; and bowls, where the balls are not quite spherical but instead designed to make the balls travel in a curved path along the ground.
Pass the Parcel
Pass the parcel is a British children’s party game that distributes gifts among guests. The game starts with an item, the parcel, being wrapped in multiple layers of gift wrapping. Typically, each layer is distinct in pattern or color to differentiate between layers. In between each layer is a gift that will be claimed by a player.
To play the game, a group of children gather in a circle. Music is played and while the music is playing, the parcel is passed between players, like hot potato or musical chairs. When the music stops, the player holding the parcel unwraps a layer and claims the prize inside.
Typically, the person controlling the music is a non-playing adult who helps ensure that each child receives a gift. In this way it is like the American practice of handing out party favors.
Cover image credit: cmannphoto / iStock