10 sports every traveler should see at least once

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Think the sport begins and ends at the AFL Grand Finals? Do you think Home State is the height of a formidable rivalry? Think again.

Sports-loving travelers know that there is a whole world of skill, grace and ferocity, games and hobbies that provide a perfect window into the local culture and people. In this excerpt from his new book, Sports world, Ben Groundwater picks his favorites.

Ice hockey, Canada

You know the old saying: I went to a fight and a game of ice hockey broke out. Yes, it is a violent sport. Surprisingly violent, in fact, given its popularity among ultra-polite Canadians. Their sport of choice is essentially UFC on ice, a game of grace and beauty in some ways (huge men in full protective gear sliding across the ice like figure skaters), and grimacing brutality in some ways. ‘others. Ice hockey is fast, it’s skillful, and it’s hardcore.

Lucha Libre, Mexico

Nitro, a Mexican wrestler from Lucha Libre travels in a flat-bottomed Trajinera boat to Xochimilco, on the outskirts of Mexico City, on Thursday, August 26, 2021. After most wrestling sites were closed during the novel coronavirus pandemic, wrestlers de Lucha Libre will perform at the top of the floating gardens of Xochimilcoà ??  from September 11.  (AP Photo / Marco Ugarte)

Photo: AP

Mexico’s most popular sport? Soccer. But what about Mexico’s second most popular? This particular sport is one that involves comically macho men (and sometimes women) dressed in spandex and brightly colored masks throwing themselves at each other from great distances and from great heights. It is a sport that seems to have no rules or regulations, organized in a boxing ring. It is an event with great pomp, a manly pantomime with heroes and villains who are acclaimed and booed according to their reputation. It’s lucha libre.

Soccer, Argentina

SAN MIGUEL DE TUCUMAN, ARGENTINA - SEPTEMBER 18: Edwin Cardona of Boca Juniors and MatÃ?  ? Âas Orihuela d'AtlÃ?  ?  © tico TucumÃ?  ? ¡n fight for the ball in a match between AtlÃ?  ?  © tico TucumÃ?  ? ¡n and Boca Juniors as part of the Copa De La Liga Profesional 2021 at the Monumental José?  ?  © Fierro stadium on September 18, 2021 in San Miguel de TucumÃ?  ? ¡n, Argentina.  (Photo by Hernà ?? ¡n Cortez / Getty Images)

Photo: Getty Images

This is it: the pinnacle of football fandom. Nowhere will you find such loud fans crammed into a stadium as they are intimidating. Nowhere will you be so captivated and amazed. This is La Bombonera, home of Argentinian football club Boca Juniors. The experience of seeing a game here is intense from the moment you step into the working class of La Boca. The stadium sits in the center of the suburbs, surrounded by houses and bars within easy reach of its graffiti-covered walls. Inside, the crowd is a choppy sea of ​​yellow and blue dancing and screaming and clapping and screaming. There is nowhere else like it.

Capoeira, Brazil

Capoeirists practice capoeira on Flamengo beach.  Capoeira is a blend of martial arts, games and dance native to Brazil, created and developed by African slaves in the 16th century.  Participants form a roda (circle) and take turns playing instruments, singing and practicing in pairs.  Extremely acrobatic, Capoeira has been banned by Brazilian authorities for most of its existence.  It is now considered a national sport.  (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images) Getty Image for Traveler.  Single use only.Ã ?? Â tra21-online-sports Ben Groundwater's story on top sports for travelers to see.  Extract from his book World of Sports published by Hardie Grant

Photo: Getty Images

Is it a sport or a dance? Is it a martial art or a spectacle? With capoeira, it’s hard to tell sometimes, and that’s part of the appeal. Capoeira is the perfect snapshot of Brazilian culture and history, a hobby rooted in African slavery, inextricably linked to local passions such as music and dance. To see capoeira is to witness the joyful flow of movement, as two “capoeiristas” engage in a series of high kicks and low sweeps, as they feign and weave, dodge and dodge, all of it. accompanied by musicians and other artists.

Camel race, United Arab Emirates

In this photo from Friday, April 14, 2017, camels run towards the finish line as their SUV owners control the robotic jockeys of the cars, at the Al Marmoom Camel Racetrack, al Lisaili, about 40 km (25 miles) ) southeast of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  Camel racing is a big paying sport and fast thoroughbreds can fetch over a million dollars.  As rising temperatures in the Arab Gulf countries mark the end of the winter camel racing season, Dubai wraps up its races with the annual Al Marmoom Heritage Festival which has drawn thousands of camels from across the oil-rich Gulf. .  (AP Photo / Kamran Jebreili)

Photo: AP

The first thing you’ll probably ask yourself about camel racing in Dubai is: what’s going on? There is a lot to see. There is the sight of the camels themselves, beautiful beasts that are treated like royalty by their owners (who could be real kings). And then there are the jockeys: not people, but small crates attached to the backs of the camels. Then there is the size of the trail, which seems to extend beyond the horizon. And then there is the fleet of luxury cars balanced on the edge of the track, ready to roll. What is happening here? Emirati camel races.

Basque stone lifting, Spain

PAMPLONA, SPAIN - JULY 12: A stone lifter competes in a rural Basque sports championship on the seventh day of the San Fermin Running Of The Bulls festival on July 12, 2014 in Pamplona, ​​Spain.  The annual Fiesta de San Fermin, made famous by the 1926 novel by American writer Ernest Hemingway

Photo: Getty Images

Surely not. Surely this guy won’t be able to lift this stone. It weighs 150kg. No one could do that. But then he lifts that rock up. He clings to it, knocking the huge stone back onto his knees, straightening up as he hoists it to his chest and over her shoulder. A referee screams and he drops the stone to the ground with a thud. And then … he takes it back. And even. Welcome to harri-jasotze, or Basque stone lifting. Join the cider-sipping crowds in Plaza Trinidad in San Sebastian and marvel at the great men doing their thing.

Darts, England

Michael van Gerwen in action during his match against Ricky Evans on Matchday 10 of the William Hill World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace in London on Sunday December 27, 2020 (John Walton / PA Wire via AP)

Photo: AP

In a way, at one point, darts got fun. In fact, not just fun, but a frenzied good time. Somehow, the World Darts Championship, held annually at Alexandra Palace in London – aka “Ally Pally” – has become the social event for British sports enthusiasts who love mix disguises and large amounts of alcohol with their consumption of big game. And so, this sport which features everyday men and women throwing tiny arrows at a circular target has turned into a cultural phenomenon.

Schwingen, Switzerland

Savognin, GR / Switzerland, - October 12, 2019: Two men in the ring during a Swiss wrestling match Getty image for Traveler.  Single use only.Ã ?? Â tra21-online-sports Ben Groundwater's story on top sports for travelers to see.  Extract from his book World of Sports published by Hardie Grant

Photo: Getty Images

It begins with a solemn prayer. Competitors gather high in the rich green hills of Switzerland and respectfully stop during the Sunday Mass observation. And then it’s time to fight. This is the schwingen, the traditional Swiss wrestling. He is little known in the rest of the world, yet passionately revered in his homeland. It is a country sport, a sport of farmers, workers, fellows in checked shirts who gather on these beautiful hills, put on their “schwingerhosen”, the traditional burlap pants, enter covered rings sawdust and then try to throw each other on the ground.

Naadam, Mongolia

FILE- On this Sunday, June 5, 2016, file photo, a Mongolian archer shoots a bow and arrows as US Secretary of State John Kerry attends a Naadam ceremony, a competition that traditionally includes horse racing, Mongolian wrestling and archery, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.  Mongols vote in parliamentary elections on Wednesday, June 29, 2016, with sentiment weighed down by a sharp decline in the landlocked Asian nation's crucial mining sector, rising unemployment and political disillusionment.  Mongolia's mining and animal husbandry dependent economy has been dragged down by weak domestic demand and a sharp drop in exports, impoverishing thousands of former herders who had left their homes. settled in its few towns looking for a job.  (Saul Loeb / Pool Photo via AP, File)

Photo: AP

First of all, you need to know the Three Manly Pursuits: wrestling, archery, and horseback riding. It doesn’t take long in Mongolia to understand why these three sports are held in such high esteem. It is a traditional society of real nomads who still live in felt gers, hunt for food, travel on horseback and value physical strength. To witness their exploits, simply attend Naadam, an annual festival dedicated to the Three Manly Pursuits in Ulaanbaatar. It’s a feast for the eyes, as arrows are fired, oiled men in leather underwear clash on the ground, and wild horses run for distances of up to 30km.

Sepak Takraw, Thailand

BANGKOK, THALANDE - 2002/11/21: Thai people playing sepak takraw.  (Photo by Gerhard Joren / LightRocket via Getty Images) Getty image for Traveler.  Single use only. Tra21-online-sports Ben Groundwater's story on top sports for travelers to see.  Extract from his book World of Sports published by Hardie Grant

Photo: Getty Images

Wow. This is the word you will say when you see your first game of sepak takraw. How can these guys get so high in the air? How do they twist in these positions? How do they land without breaking something? Sepak takraw is basically volleyball, only the ball is a small rattan sphere, and players cannot use their hands to control it. As a result, both male and female players jump high in the air and perform entire somersaults in order to “sting” the ball over a high net. You will find the sport played all over Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Laos, from dusty glades to modern stadiums.

Sports world by Ben Groundwater (Hardie Grant, $ 19.99) is out now. See smarturl.it/WorldofSport

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