The absence of major sports up until very recently got us thinking about the lesser-known sports that people from around the world might enjoy, and in turn also may also have been missing. It turns out that a lot of you are into some weird activities. From wildly dangerous to “how is this even a thing” level bizarre to just hilarious, we found a few of the world’s endless examples of humanity’s ability to turn anything into a contest and to then tweak that contest for optimal violence or amusement.
Today, a few honorable mentions and then the amazing claustrophobic shouting match that is Kabaddi.
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Honorable Mention: Toe Wrestling, Wife Carrying, Man vs. Horse Marathon
Each of these is self-explanatory and caters to an extremely specific group of people. I’m not judging, I’m just saying if you click one of the videos in this section, like me, you’re at least one kind of weirdo.
Man vs. Horse Marthon:
The phrase “Man vs. Horse Marathon” really should only make you think two things: “how drunk or stoned were these people when this sport was invented?” and “where can I sign up?” At least the first of which would show good instincts on your part in this case.
Originating from an overheard 1980 conversation in a Welsh pub known as the Neuadd Arms, the 22-mile race now takes place every year in the town of Llanwrtyd Wells. While the course is shorter than a traditional marathon, it takes place on a cross-country style course, with runners, horses, and, after 1985, cyclists, having to navigate rough terrain, hills, fields, streams and more.
In 2004, the 25th annual race was won by a man named Huw Lobb, the first time a human racing on foot had won the race. Huw was able to outrun 500 other humans and 40 horses. He took home £25,000 for his efforts, the pot having grown by £1,000 for every year from the event’s inception until a human won, as-per the original agreement. This was either a high or a low point for humanity, I’m not entirely sure which.
Wife carrying – also known as “wait, is she conscious?” in many bar parking lots – is exactly as absurd and misogynistic as it sounds. The sport traces its origins to a Finnish folk figure, Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, or Ronkainen the Robber, who was known for living in the woods with his band of men, who he would send to raid nearby villages and carry off their women. So like a less giving, more rapey Robin Hood.
Here’s the 2019 U.K. Championships:
Toe Wrestling World Championships:
Read whatever undertones you like into wife carrying, think what you will of man against beast competitions, by far the worst of these is the toe wrestling. On the skeevy-scale, the phrase “other people’s feet” ranks right up there with “COVID-19 make out party,” “Mitch McConnell’s unwashed taint” and “I ordered Dominos” as things that will universally undoubtedly make people sick. Although these days this is probably more acceptable in terms of social distancing than any wrestling the WWE is doing.
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Imagine playing a full-contact game of team “Tag” with 14 people in a studio apartment. This will get you about halfway to the claustrophobic lunacy that is Kabaddi. The national sport of Bangladesh, the game is wildly popular in that part of the world, with professional and amateur teams and leagues throughout South Asia and the Middle East.
Kabaddi is played by two teams of seven players each on a 33′-by-43′ rectangular court, combining wrestling, tag and elements of dodge-ball. Teams take turns sending a player designated as a raider into the opposing team’s half of the court. This player then attempts to tag as many of the opponents as they can with either a hand or a foot before either he is tackled to the ground, the 30-second timer expires or he is no longer able to continue yelling the word “Kabaddi” to demonstrate that his entire turn has been accomplished in a single breath. This would be like requiring an NBA player to run for the entire 24-second shot clock in one breath, while continuously yelling the word “basketball” for a made shot to qualify for points.
Teams take turns on offense and defense with raiders scoring points for crossing the “baulk line” as well as for each opponent they can tag within their breath, provided they eventually get back to their half of the court. Defending teams can score points by preventing the raider from getting back to their side of the court with either a tackle or by knocking them out of bounds.
The last few seconds of any raid turns into a tense showdown, as opposing players close in on the increasingly desperate raider while keeping distant enough to not be easily tagged. If a team fails to score points on two straight raids, the third becomes a do-or-die situation. If the defending team has three or fewer remaining players on the court and successfully tackles a raider, this is known as a Super Tackle, scoring a bonus point. Similarly, a raider can score 2 bonus points by accomplishing an All Out, which as you probably guessed, means tagging all seven opponents in a single raid. Still with me? To be honest, I’m not 100% sure I got that right, which is why this is here:
If what we already covered isn’t quite complex enough for you, raiders can also add to their point total by crossing a goal line in the back of opposing territory. The territory expands on both sides into what’s known as the “lobby” area after a defender is tagged, allowing each side a little more space for the fleeing and tackling portion of the game.
Also, like in dodge-ball, every tagged player is removed from the game, but in a rule straight out of our neighborhood games when we were eight years old, a tagged player can be “revived” for each point scored by their team, but bonus points don’t count, of course. Teams go back and forth with each subsequent raid being required to begin within 5 seconds of the end of the previous attempt. The team that has scored the most total points at the end of two 20-minute halves wins.
I can’t stress enough that while all of this is happening, the raider has to constantly be yelling the word “Kabaddi” without taking a breath. That’s the most sadistic rule I can think of in sports and an entry we haven’t gotten to yet on this list uses dead things as the ball (Netflix beat us to that one, we got to Calcio Storico first though).
Kabaddi has several major events throughout each year as well as numerous professional leagues and variants in many countries. India has absolutely dominated the first four Kabaddi World Cup events.