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The latest sport to go global demands so much skill it will make your head spin. This not so new game is called sepaktakraw. The sport is mostly seen in the Asian culture but in the past couple of decades has made its way across the globe. Sepaktakraw is a version of volleyball in which you can not use your hands: in its simplest form it is a combination of volleyball and soccer. Players can use their feet, heads, knees, and shoulders to get the ball over the net, but hands are not allowed. The sport was originally played with a spherical object made out of animal hide and chicken feathers when it was first invented in 15th century Thailand. It has since evolved into many different forms but is mainly described as a combination of volleyball, soccer, martial arts, and gymnastics. Sepak is the Malay word for “kick” and takraw is the Thai word for “ball”. The basic translation to English is kickball but it is also known as footvolley, footbag net, football tennis, and bossaball.
Although sepaktakraw and volleyball have a similar concept, there are many differences. In sepaktakraw, each team has three players on the court at all times. The player that is in the back is called tekong and the other two players are up front near the net, these positions are called right and left inside. The ball that is used in sepaktakraw is approximately 17 inches in diameter and has evolved from being made out of animal hide to woven stripes of rattan to synthetic rubber. The court is very similar to a volleyball court but is only 44 X 20 feet and has a service circle in the center two thirds of the way back from the net. Also the net is approximately five feet high due to the constant use of feet. The sport was mainly played indoors on a wooden court but has recently evolved to beach courts, just like volleyball, which led to the inclusion of sepaktakraw in the 2008 Asian Beach Games in Bali.
The first set of codified rules for sepaktakraw were established in the early 1960’s and shortly after the sport made its first appearance as a medal sport in the South-East Asian Games in 1965. In 1988, the International Sepak Takraw Federation was formed and in 1990 the federation received an invitation to join the Olympic Movement at the 10th Asian Games in Beijing. Since then, sepaktakraw leagues have sprung up all over the globe including the Chennai Sepaktakraw League in India and the Takraw Thailand League, to the Sepaktakraw Swiss Open and the European Sepaktakraw Championships. There are now teams in over 30 countries and five continents around the world. International play is now governed by the International Sepak Takraw Federation.
The King’s Cup World Championships are held every year in Thailand and is the most prestigious tournament in all of sepaktakraw. The King’s Cup was started in 1985 and was held in Nakon Sawan, Thailand. It has since been held consecutively in different cities in Thailand for the past 21 years. The USA has been competing in the King’s Cup since the late 1980’s when a young team from California was invited to participate in the event. In 1997, a women’s group was added to the tournament and the U.S. sent three of the world’s best footbag players to compete in the 13th King’s Cup. A year later in the 14th King’s Cup the U.S. National Team brought home gold in the division III competition, and the next year the U.S. moved up to division II competition.
Sepaktakraw is a rather new sport in the U.S. but organizations such as the USA Takraw Association, which was formed in 1996, have not only promoted the sport in the U.S. but has also raised money for equipment for players across the country. The USA Takraw Association continues to promote sepaktakraw throughout the U.S. and is always looking for new people to play the sport.