An unworldly article on the world’s game

As the countdown begins to the World Cup opener in Brazil on 12 June, the New York Times has an astonishingly unworldly article about what it calls the ‘uniquely Brazilian sport’ of futevolei, which is derived from football.  They describes its origins this way:

The game, which was born on the famed beaches of Copacabana in the 1960s, features a pair of competitors on each side of a net playing beach volleyball without the use of their hands. Creativity is king: Players use their feet, shoulders, chests, heads and anything else that would be legal on a soccer field to get the ball back over the net. A soft touch, powerful legs and sharp reflexes are critical.

Well, the Brazilians may very well win this year’s World Cup but I’m not giving them credit for that game — that’s sepak takraw, a sport that has been played in Southeast Asia since the 15th century, just with a leather ball instead of a rattan one.  I’m not even sure the Brazilians play it more beautifully.  The Times says “The most impressive move in Brazilian sports has nothing to do with soccer, takes place on sand and is known, delightfully, as the Shark Attack.”  The move is described as follows:

So, too, is a certain amount of fearlessness, particularly for those who want to attempt the Shark Attack, a move created by Leo Tubarão — whose surname translates to “shark” — that is essentially futevolei’s equivalent to volleyball’s spike or tennis’s overhead smash.  To pull off the move, a player has to leap high enough that he can get his leg above the net before powering the ball down with the bottom of his foot. Done right, it is nearly impossible to defend; done wrong, it can result in a crippling injury.

The essential element here is that the Shark Attack is done with the bottom of the foot, so basically it is a high-leaping tap.  Compare that to the upside-down bicycle kick smash of sepak takraw — often played on a hard surface like concrete, I should add — in the video below, which was shot in Bangkok. You be the judge of what means to truly joga bonito.

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