Sepak takraw, a sport widely played in Southeast Asia and in Southeast Asian communities of Minnesota, now has a permanent home in St. Paul’s parks.
City officials working with the St. Paul Parks Conservancy and the Sepak Takraw Group of the United States recently opened courts in two parks, including one on the city’s east side carved into the space that once housed courts. unused tennis shoes.
The sport, a mix of soccer and volleyball, emphasizes high jump and flexibility when players kick the ball over the net.
The new courts, the first of their kind in the region, will bring together a new generation of sepak takraw players, said Senator Foung Hawj, DFL-St. Paul, said at a dedication ceremony Saturday at the Duluth and Case Rec Center. The new courts, he added, “will be there for everyone, especially for our new generation and beyond. “
The city has also opened courts at Marydale Park in the North End. Sepak takraw supporters are interested in bringing the idea to Minneapolis parks.
Sepak takraw has its roots in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos: “Sepak” is the Malay word for kick, and “takraw” is the Thai word for a woven ball.
Sport has the gift of bringing people together. Lee Pao Xiong, president of Sepak Takraw of the United States, said that the disparate immigrant communities in Southeast Asia have one thing in common: their love for sepak takraw.
“If you look at the sport it’s mixed, you have a combination of Lao, Hmong and Kareni playing together. You don’t see that anywhere else,” he said. “So that really breaks down the barriers, and that’s what we want to see.”
Ker Cha, a veteran sepak takraw player from the St. Paul area, said the new courts will provide a base for recruiting and training new players.
“It will definitely increase… the number of people coming to play,” said Cha, who was part of a team that competed in the King’s Cup, an international championship held in Bangkok, Thailand. “Young players who want to improve come here, and we can train them.”
Xiong said he envisions a future where sepak takraw becomes an Olympic sport, so training a new generation of players is key to making the sport more important.
“Some of the best players in the United States are from here,” he said. “So let’s take it to the next level. We have to develop players, develop teams and develop leagues. And then we can pick the crème de la crème of those leagues and qualify for the Olympics.”
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