Sepak Takraw: The Greatest Sport You’ve Never Heard Of

It is a combination of volleyball, American soccer, and martial arts. What is more important, however, is what it is not. Precisely what it is not is boring to watch. With high flying acrobatics, back flips, fast-paced action and bicycle kicks, this sport has it all. This video explains all of the questions lingering in your head about what you may have initially thought was a typo in the title of this post:

Although the sport has not necessarily made it to the mainstream yet, significant action is being taken with such organizations as the International Sepak Takraw Federation (ISTAF) in the ’90s. Even though a set of rules was drafted almost 200 years ago in 1829, representatives from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Lao and Thailand met in 1960 in order to reach standardized rules and regulations for the game. There was actually disputes in what to name the sport because each individual country wanted to claim its right to the true origin of the game. Eventually The King’s Cup Tournament was created in 1985 and held in Bankok, Thailand for the first time where Malaysia reigned as champs. Even though Malaysia emerged as victors again in 1988, Thailand has claimed the cup on all other occasions. Although there are competitive leagues and teams in the US, it is much more popular in Asia. Nations in Asia are currently pushing to give the sport Olympic recognition in order to gain international attention and perhaps boost their medal counts in the games.

The game is just about as simple as it looks, with many of the rules mirroring those of volleyball such as not being allowed to play the ball more than three times and the rules for boundaries of the court. The server, or Tekong, is not allowed to jump off the ground during the service however, and the ball is tossed from one teammate at the net to the Tekong in order to start play. What makes this sport particularly challenging is not strictly the lack of being able to use your hands, but the fact that the ball is only slightly larger than  a softball. Did I mention that it’s not even a perfectly rounded ball? It is made from woven rattan and must contain 12 holes and 20 intersections according to the ISTAF. Kicking a soccer ball accurately and at the correct angle is challenging enough. Somehow through all the tornado kicks and hand stand kicks, the best of two sets played to 21 points is recorded which much resembles volleyball.

With a world circuit being incorporated in order to provide constant elite level tournaments throughout the year, there is certain to be an increase in popularity of the sport internationally.  It is only a matter of time before the sports gains enough recognition to be incorporated into the Olympic Games.

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