of Thailand's most unusual sports, Sepak Takraw, is an exciting
combination of the skills of soccer, the teamwork of volleyball,
and the pace of badminton. This sport and its variations are
popular throughout Southeast Asia, and Thailand is one of
the perennial powers in the sport, which is showcased at both
the Asian Games, and the South-East Asian (SEA) Games. In
Thailand Sepak Takraw is extremely popular with people of
all ages, and it is not unusual to see people playing it at
schools, temples, on the side of the road, in vacant lots,
or just about anywhere.
of Sepak Takraw
Takraw is played in teams of three, on a small court, similar
to that used in badminton, using a small, hollow, rattan ball.
Players attempt to keep the ball aloft by using a variety
of body parts, such as the feet, legs, knees, thighs, shoulders,
and head. Serving is a team effort, as one player throws the
ball to the server, who launches it spinning over the net.
Much like volleyball, each team has three touches to send
the ball across the net, and players often use these to set
up teammates for spikes. It is much more difficult than it
seems, however, and more advanced players have developed techniques
that are truly amazing to watch. Net Takraw's acrobatic flip
kicks and shoulder kicks require the most flexible and agile
of athletes, not to mention kicks such as the cross-legged
jump kick, in which the player jumps into the air and crosses
one leg over the other before spiking the ball across the
net. The pace of the game is lightning-quick, and the points
are seldom longer than a few seconds long. The scoring system
is similar to that used in volleyball in that there are side
outs, and points can only be scored on one's serve.
With the exception of Net Takraw, Hoop Takraw is the most
common form of Takraw found in Thailand. Hoop Takraw is played
in teams of seven players, who stand in a circle beneath a
suspended hoop. The objective is for the players to collectively
pass the ball back and forth while trying to put it through
the hoop. Each team is allotted a time of 30 minutes to get
as many points as possible, and successive teams try to best
the score. Hoop Takraw, much like Net Takraw, requires a tremendous
amount of skill, and some players are able to do trick kicks
that must be seen to be believed. Perhaps the most difficult
of these is a kick in which a player makes a hoop of his arms
behind his back, lets the ball pass through, and then heels
the ball back into the air and through the suspended hoop.
Although Hoop Takraw is slower paced than Net Takraw, it is
by no means easy.
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