The World Sports Encyclopedia lists more than 8,000 different sports and games, clubbed into a variety of categories on the basis of multiple parameters. India’s sporting culture is dominated by a select few sports like cricket, football, hockey, badminton, tennis, chess, table tennis and basketball, with cricket ruling the roost.
Some other sports, such as boxing, wrestling and motor sports also have a reasonable following, especially in specific parts of the country. Apart from these, there are a large number of sports, some of which are even Olympic sports, which are little known to most Indians, even though there are teams representing the nation in some of these sports.
Here is a look at five such sports which are relatively unknown in the nation:
Lacrosse is an extremely popular stick-and-ball team sport, and is one of the oldest sports in North America. The sport has even featured in the Summer Olympics in the 1904 and 1908 editions. The sport’s governing body, World Lacrosse, hosts the World Lacrosse Championship, the pinnacle event of the sport, every four years.
The sport is usually played in an outdoor lacrosse field, or in some cases in an indoor lacrosse rink. A lacrosse stick is used to carry, catch, pass and shoot the ball into the goal. The stick is unique, in the sense that it has a small basket attached at one end to carry the ball through the field. The ultimate objective, like other stick-and-ball sports, is to score more goals than your opponent and accumulate more points. Lacrosse is a contact sport, and players wear a variety of protective gear, such as helmets, gloves, shoulder pads etc. during the match.
Korfball is a ball sport with its general outline similar to basketball. It is unique in the sense that it is a mixed-gender sport, played between two teams of eight players each, both having four male and four female players each. Like other ball sports, the objective is to score a basket by throwing the ball into your opponent’s basket. The team with more points at the end of the stipulated time period wins the match.
The sport is played in more than 70 countries worldwide, and has even been showcased in a non-competitive demonstration manner at the 1920 and 1928 Summer Olympics. The sport involves limited contact between the players and is a regular feature at the quadrennial World Games.
Sepak takraw is southeast Asian indoor team sport played with a rattan or rubberised plastic ball. Also known as kick volleyball, the rules and regulations of the sport are similar to volleyball, with the obvious exception of using hands to touch the ball, and instead using one’s feet, head, chest or knee. A match is played between two teams of 2-4 players each.
The game is extremely popular and widely played in countries like Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia. Although the sport has never featured in the Olympics, it has been a regular competitive sport at the Asian Games since 1990, where the Thai National Team has dominated the competition.
Another relatively unknown outdoor stick-and-ball gall is hurling; a native Gaelic sport being played for over 4,000 years in Ireland. A full-contact sport, a match is played between two teams of 15 players each, with substitutions permitted during the course of play. The objective of the sport is to use a stick (called a hurl) to hit a ball (called a sliotar or hurling ball) into the opponent’s goal, either below a horizontal bar (for three points) or above it (for one point). The sport is a mixture of sports such as football, rugby and field hockey. Carrying the sliotar by hand up to four steps is also considered legal.
The Gaelic Athletic Association is the sport’s highest governing body and the sport is extremely popular in Europe, New Zealand, Australia etc. The sport has been showcased in a demonstration capacity at the 1904 Summer Olympics, and is considered to be an element of significant cultural heritage by UNESCO.
Ultimate (or Ultimate Frisbee)
Ultimate is a recently formalised sport which was developed in New Jersey in 1968. It is a low-contact team sport played with a flying disc, popularly known as a frisbee. The sport is unique in the sense that it involves self-officiating instead of having a referee or an umpire, even in high level matches, by fully relying on the sportsmanship of players. The objective involves outscoring your opponent by accumulating more points by completing successful passes to your teammates in opposing zones on the field. The game is played either on a grass field, or on a beach, or even indoors if need be, in teams with 5-7 players each.
The game has regularly featured at the World Games since 2001, and was recently recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), even making it eligible to be featured in the 2024 Summer Olympics.
Many other such unique sports not commonly played in India have their own fan base and avid followers in different parts of the world. Jousting, zorbing, cycle-ball, kendo are some others deserving honourable mentions.
Written by Shubhang Gopal
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