Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sepak Takraw

I consider myself a fairly skilled athlete, but in Malaysia I've found one sport that is way out of my league.

Sepak takraw (Eng: kick ball) resembles volleyball in that each team is allowed a maximum of three touches before it must pass the ball over the net, and points are scored by landing the ball inside the opposing team's boundaries. But the net, court, and ball are much smaller and – here's the clincher for me – the feet are used to hit the ball rather than the hands. (The knees, chest, and head are also okay.)

Each team has three players and games are played to 21 points. As in volleyball, offensive specialists go for smashes, which involves leaping high and striking the ball with the foot above the head. Players either complete a backflip and land on their feet or else fall hard on their sides. Naturally, the opposing team tries to block the smashes...with their feet!

The original balls were made out of rattan but modern ones are synthetic.
The sport is native to Southeast Asia and is most popular in Thailand and Malaysia, yet a United States Takraw Association does exist, and teams from North America and Europe have been known to compete in the sport's world championships held annually in Thailand.

The guys let me dink around with them in a circle, and I did alright, but sepak takraw demands a degree of flexibility, agility, and foot-eye coordination which I will never possess.