Football, soccer, baseball, softball, swim, dance. All are internationally-known sports common in the United States. Sports like “Sepak Takraw” and “Mutton Busting” may not be as well known, but their influence is just as significant for competitors and fans.
Sepak Takraw comes from two languages. Sepak means “kick” in Malay, and Takraw means “ball” in Thai. Created about 500 years ago in Southeast Asia, Sepak Takraw consists of a combination of soccer, volleyball, baseball, and gymnastics. The court itself resembles that of badminton. Both teams have a total of three players. This sport is commonly played in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Similar to volleyball, the goal of Sepak Takraw is to prevent the ball from touching the ground on your side of the net and to distribute the ball to the other. Competitors can use their feet, knees, chest and head to play; hands are not permitted. The ball was once made of rattan, but competitors now use synthetic woven balls.
Since 1992, men have been training with their wives for Wife-Carrying World Championship, which is held annually in Sonkajärvi, Finland. The North American version of this contest began in 1999. Wife-carrying originated in Finland and arose in the nineteenth century when Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen and his army were accused of stealing food and women from villages. Legend has it they carried these women slung on their backs.
In the competition, men run an obstacle course with their wife on their backs, two men per heat. The two fastest heats qualify for the finals. The winner of the final heat is awarded the wife’s weight in beer and five times her weight in cash.
Horse racing is a popular American sport. Substitute the horses for camels and you have Camel Racing, popular in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Australia, and Mongolia. This sport has a dark side, however. According to Wikipedia, camels are often ridden by child jockeys: the lighter the jockey, the faster the camel.
Wikipedia claims, “thousands of children (some reported as young as 2 years old) are trafficked from countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, and Sudan for use as jockeys in the Persian Gulf States’ camel racing industry.” Due to injuries and abuse, child jockeys are banned now in many countries.
Like horse racing, camel racing involves gambling and attracts many tourists. The winner of the race receives a large amount of money.
Not only do children ride camels, but they also ride sheep—although less controversially. In her article about the sport of Mutton Busting or “wool riding,” Andy Wright describes a scene similar to a rodeo. Lightweight children from ages four to seven enter the Wool Riders Only event held by Tommy G Productions, most commonly centered in Colorado, US.
Children enter the rink riding a sheep while onlookers either cheer them on or boo them off. Mutton busting attracts many parents; they eagerly enroll their children in the competition for a price ranging from $10-$12.
Being indolent is not an option for athletes; commitment and dedication are required, even for unusual sports. You’ll be surprised at the quantity of hours put into their training. Despite their rarity in American society, these sports are just as demanding.
Featured Image: An Archer student shocked by Wife-Carrying. Photographer: Rosemary Pastron ’16