For all the media’s focus on big-money events, it’s often weird local games or odd new hybrid events that really capture the joy of sport across the world. So we asked the authors of The Rough Guide to Cult Sport to select their ten favourite strange sports from the book (with apologies to the likes of cardboard tube duelling, cheese rolling, dwarf throwing, Irish road bowling, underwater ice hockey and yak racing, which didn’t quite make the cut).
This most schizophrenic of sports originated in a comic book from which the strange notion of splicing together chess and boxing was taken by Dutchman Iepe Rubingh.The winner of a contest overcomes his opponent in either one of the alternating rounds of chess or boxing.
Not so much odd as miraculous to western eyes, Kataw is a volleyball-style game that requires high-kicking acrobatics and dazzling levels of balance. The most spectacular move is the equivalent of the volleyball “spike”, performed via a bicycle-kick and usually defended close to the net in the same way. In Malaysia they call this strange sport Sepak Tekraw.
Take one shopping cart, five matching costumes, an abundance of weird projectiles and plenty of strong liquor and you’ve got yourself an entry for the Idiotarod (liquor not required, but encouraged). More party than competition, in New York’s version there are team awards for “best in show” (costume) and “best sabotage”. Oh and there’s a race around a route with checkpoints too.
Imagine rugby without rules, or American football without helmets, padding or even shirts. Imagine a game in which whilst wearing little but colourful breaches you can tackle off the ball, throw punches and pin an opponent to the ground for the duration. 27-a side Calcio Storico, which dates back to 1530, is not for the faint-hearted.
With its strikingly mud-drenched contestants, Bog Snorkelling has become something of a dirty poster boy of weird sports. The annual world championships, held every August, started some thirty years ago at Llanwrtyd Wells. Participants have to swim two soggy sixty-metre stretches of a trench specially cut into a Welsh peat bog.
The following of Trugo is restricted to a small square of northwest Melbourne. In the 1920s, railway worker Tom Grieves improvised a working-class elaboration of croquet using odd rail yard tools and parts such as mallets for driving in rail spikes and rubber rings from carriage couplings. Only a few Trugo clubs remain – secret gems with tiny shed pavilions and corrugated tin roofs.
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