A large number of popular Western sports such as football, tennis and golf have been adopted by the people of Thailand and are played with passion throughout the country. However, Thailand also has its own traditional sports that are just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed by visitors to Thailand.
Sepak Takraw is one of Thailand’s most traditional and unique sports and is played by people of all ages as a way to get fit and have fun. The sport is also known as Asian football, while most local people call it simply Takraw. The sport is a mixture of football and volleyball with a few aspects of gymnastics and kung fu thrown in for good measure and is becoming increasingly popular all over the world.
One of the great things about Takraw is that it is easy to learn and can be played virtually anywhere. Although technically a type of volleyball net is required, casually players who have restricted space often do without the net. The main distinguishing feature of Takraw is the small rattan ball that is used, which is rather hard and slightly larger than a tennis ball.
The main aim of Sepak Takraw is to prevent this ball from touching the ground. Players can use a number of parts of their body to stop the ball such as their feet, head, knees, shoulders and elbows, although they are not allowed to use their hands. The game is traditionally played by two teams with three players in each team, although in casual neighbourhood games many more people often gather to join in the fun.
The basic rules and scoring of Sepak Takraw are the same as for volleyball, which means that people who are familiar with volleyball will be able to pick up Sepak Takraw easily. Players are only allowed to touch the rattan ball three times while it is in play, otherwise the other team will score a point.
Where is it played?
People who want to join in a game of Sepak Takraw will most likely find a game being played at their local park like the one in Saphan Thaksin. Most Thai people are more than happy for Westerners to join them in a game and will usually explain the rules as well if necessary. The most popular times for playing Sepak Takraw are in the evening, usually from 17:00 until around 21:00.
Several professional teams also play regularly at various different parks and other areas of Bangkok, and people who think they have what it takes to join a team should be welcome to try out. Of course, you can also purchase your own rattan ball from a local sports shop for just a few baht and start their own game in the park with a few friends. Before you know it you will surely have attracted a large crowd of spectators and people who want to join in, and this is a great way to make new friends.
A number of special Sepak Takraw competitions are held around Thailand, especially in the month of April to celebrate the Thai New Year. These competitions attract a large number of professional Sepak Takraw players from all over Thailand as well as neighbouring countries such as Laos, Malaysia and Cambodia.
By Kirsty Turner