Sport is an enormous part of human culture, and for centuries people have invented new sports as pastimes. Football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey and tennis are a few of the more mainstream sports, but there are hundreds of different ones that are played all around the world. Many of these are old, traditional sports, whilst there are also some strange modern ones that have emerged in just the last few years. Here are 10 of the strangest sports played worldwide, and we would be lying if we said we didn’t fancy giving a few of these a go ourselves.
Kabaddi resembles the schoolyard game of tag, but it also has roots in Indian wrestling and allows you to tackle your opponent to the ground. It is the national game of Bangladesh and Nepal, having originated in Ancient India. Each year there is a World Cup in South Asia, and India has won this every single year since it started. During a game, the “raider” must run across the center line and tag players on the opposing team, before returning to their own half. This may sound simple enough, but the raider must also do all of this whilst holding his breath when in the opponent’s half, and upon returning the raider will chant “kabaddi, kabaddi” with his exhaling breath to show that he has not inhaled. It has recently reached the UK and there is now a governing body, and could well one day be a popular global sport.
9. Sepak Takraw
Sepak Takraw may look odd to the majority of Westerners, but it is actually an enormously popular sport in Asia and has been around since the 15th century. It translates to “kick ball,” but it is nothing like soccer at all. A more accurate comparison to make would be volleyball, as a court is divided by a net and both teams must keep the ball aloft or the other team gains a point. Unlike volleyball however, you are not allowed to use your hands and instead you must use your feet, knees or your chin. This may sound near impossible to get any kind of rally going, but you would be amazed at the skill level and athleticism that is often on show during games. The sport is mainly played in Thailand and Malaysia, and it is a regular event in the Asian Games and Southeast Asian games.
One of the newer sports to have been developed, zorbing is an extreme sport which has exploded in popularity in recent years. It is not hard to see why either, as taking part looks like brilliant fun and it is also rather comical to watch. There appears to be no competitive element involved, making it more of a recreational activity than a sport. It involves getting inside a large inflatable orb that is made of transparent plastic, and then being flung down a hillside, sending you tumbling around until you eventually come to a stop. The orbs are double layered, ensuring there is a shock absorber to stop injury from occurring. It can also be done on a level surface, enabling the user greater control. Zorbing originated in New Zealand (the home to many extreme sports), but it can now be performed all around the world at many commercial locations.
7. Chess Boxing
Chess and boxing are typically two types of competition that are at opposing ends of the spectrum, but one person though it would be a fantastic idea to merge the two to create a new hybrid sport. The result has simply been named chess boxing, and Dutch performance artist Lepe Rubingh is the inventor. The first competition took place in Berlin in 2003, but it has since exploded in popularity and it is now played in Germany, Great Britain, India and Russia, with major organizations and competitions taking place each year. A chess boxing fight consists of 11 rounds (six chess, five boxing), alternating between each sport and lasting three minutes. A competitor may win by knockout, technical knockout, checkmate, or their opponent becoming disqualified, resigning or exceeding the time limit in the chess rounds. Typically, as the fight goes on, the standard of chess (understandably) drops.
6. Extreme Ironing
The next time you’ve got an enormous pile of ironing that you simply can’t face, you might want to liven it up by taking part in extreme ironing. This is both an extreme sport and a performance art which originated in the UK, but a documentary on the sport helped popularize it around the world and it is now performed globally. As the name suggests, it sees people take ironing boards to remote and extreme locations where they then iron items of clothing. This could be on a mountainside, whilst snowboarding, in a canoe, whilst parachuting, or in any other extreme situation or location. It is tongue-in-cheek, with the Extreme Ironing Bureau defining it as “the latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well pressed shirt.” In 2002, the first Extreme Ironing World Championships took place with 10 nations competing.
Not a sport that you see played every day, Hornussen is an indigenous Swiss sport which is thought to have developed in the 17th century, and is now starting to get recognition outside of Switzerland. It has typically been played by Swiss farmers, and it was a way to settle disputes in the village or to prove one’s strength. The best comparison to make would be a combination of golf and baseball, as it sees a batting team launch a puck (hornuss) into the air with a whip. They must get it as far into their opponents’ area as possible, whilst the defending team must stop the puck with big placards on long sticks. The team with the fewest penalization points (smallest number of failed interceptions) wins, and each team gets two bouts with each player hitting twice. An international foundation was formed in 2012, and 20 US clubs exist.
Anyone who says they do not want to give Bossaball a try is surely lying, as it looks like a tremendous amount of fun, and any sport that incorporates trampolines will always be fantastic. Bossaball is a new sport that was conceptualized by Filip Eyckmans (Belgian) in 2004, but it was first played in Spain. It incorporates elements of volleyball, soccer, gymnastics and capoira, and is most commonly seen played on beaches around the world. The inflatable court has two trampolines on either side of the net, with one player (the attacker) occupying the trampoline. A player on the opposing side serves the ball, and the opposing team must return the ball over the net with no more than five touches, where a rally then ensues until the ball lands in a scoring zone. With the attacker able to gain such height, spikes can be powerful, acrobatic and spectacular.
3. Cheese Rolling
England has invented fantastic sports such as soccer, cricket, rugby, tennis and squash, and you can now add cheese rolling to the list. Each year, there is a race held near Gloucester in England, which sees a nine pound wheel of Double Gloucester cheese rolled down the hill. Contestants must then chase after the cheese, with the first person crossing the finish line at the bottom winning, you guessed it, the cheese. This may not sound particularly extreme, but it is a very steep and uneven hill and this ensures that most contestants end up tumbling down at quite some speed. Each year there are many injuries, but it also looks like a great laugh and something that has recently become a world-famous event. Due to its popularity, it now takes place spontaneously without any management, and unofficial events are now popping up around the UK and even overseas.
Unlike most of the entries, it is difficult to see this sport catching on in Western culture. Buzkashi (translates to “goat dragging”) is the national sport of Afghanistan and has found popularity in many places throughout Central Asia. The sport sees players mounted on horses, with the aim of the game to drag a goat carcass (or similar animal) through obstacles and then throw it into a circle at the other end of the playing surface for a goal. It can also be a very physical sport with enormous groups playing at the same time, so it is certainly not for the faint of heart. The sport draws huge amounts of fans for games, and many of the best riders are even sponsored by wealthy Afghanis. The game was banished under the Taliban rule, but is now being played again and is regulated by the Afghan Olympic Federation.
Originally invented as a training exercise for the Japanese military, Bo-Taoshi is a bizarre, chaotic, wild and highly entertaining sport played in Japan. It is similar to capture the flag, but much more extreme and will always result in complete mayhem with 75 players on attack and 75 on defense. The attacking team must bring a wooden pole (that is perpendicular to the ground) down to a 30 degree angle. The defending team must stop them, and they do this in a (somewhat) organized manner with different positions. Pole support holds the pole in position, barriers protect the pole and are the largest part of the defense, interference harass attackers that get within the barrier, scrum disablers eliminate the offensive tactic of spring boarding, and the ninja (easily the best position) sits atop the pole and leans to the opposite side if it is being tilted to counteract the weight.