8 Unknown Sports You Probably Never Heard Of!

Image Credits: Pixabay.com

Sports are in general a manifestation of habits and traditions that throughout the years has evolved into the concept of sport that we know today. Football, baseball, tennis are sports that come to mind very quickly.

But what if I told you that in Afghanistan the national sport is played with a headless goat?

In this blog post, we will be talking about unknown sports. Some of them might be unknown to us but are very popular in the communities where they are played. But they all have something in common: none of them will leave you indifferent.

Keep an open mind and join me in the world of the rarest and most unknown sports in the world!

Calcio Storico

What would you say if I told you there is a sport that combines elements of soccer, rugby, boxing, and Greco Roman wrestling? As incredible as it may sound, it is real, and it goes under the name of Calcio Fiorentino or Calcio Storico.

What is Calcio Storico?

Calcio Storico is a primitive form of soccer, originally from the XVI century. The sport has been played in the city of Firenze (Italy) since 1580. It is known for being one of the most brutal sports played in the world.

The purpose of the game is to score more points than your opponent and to do so, you need to get the ball to the opponent’s goal. 

And now is when things get interesting here: you can move the ball around by almost ANY MEANS. Actions like kicking, punching, tackling, wrestling, head-butting, or choking are common throughout the game.

The first rules of Calcio Storico were written by the Florentine Count Giovanni de’ Bardi, in 1890.

Every year, on the third week of June four teams representing the four main neighborhoods of Firenze, would meet each other to determine which teams should reach the grand finale on the 24th June in Piazza Santa Croce. In the beginning, it was played only by rich aristocrats. Even some popes were known to play Calcio Storico.

Historically, the teams have been represented by four neighborhoods:

NeighborhoodColor
Santa CroceBlue
Santa Maria NovellaRed
Santo SpiritoWhite
San GiovanniGreen


The game was not played for around 2 centuries, until 1930, when Mussolini brought the game back again. Calcio Storico has been played continuously until today.

The discipline, considered by many as the authentic precursor of soccer, was believed to be played by the Roman soldiers and constitutes one of the least understood historical manifestations of our time.

How do You play Calcio Storico?

  • Calcio Storico is played by 2 teams of 27 players. Each team counts with 4 goalkeepers or “Datori Indietro”.
  • The players must wear historical costumes.
  • It is played in a court similar in size to a soccer pitch, twice as long as it is wide.
  • The pitch is covered by sand to simulate the mud back in the days, divided in two by a line in the middle of the court.
  • Matches last 50 minutes.
  • There are 6 referees.
  • The ball can be played either by kicking it with your feet or using your hands.
  • The game starts after a small cannon shot announces its beginning.
  • When the game starts, the objective is to get the ball into the opponents’ goal.
  • Teams change side after every goal.
  • If a team scores, they get 2 points. But if they shoot and miss, the opponent will get half a point.

Padbol

It is very common to see sports that are created by combining elements of two different disciplines. In this case, we will be talking about a sport that is the result of blending not only two but three different modalities: Padbol.

Padbol is a blend of soccer, padel, and volleyball. It is played by any part of the body -typically feet and head-, except for arms, forearms, and hands.

There is a world tournament, and some countries have their national tournaments, even though some of them do not have a league. In the last WorldCup of Padbol 15 countries participated, and it was an event that attracted the attention of many sports lovers.

Origins of Padbol

Padbol is a brand new sport. It was invented in 2008 by Gustavo Miguens, who wanted to give a twist to the already known football-tennis. The introduction of the walls gave the sport the particularities that differentiated it from football-tennis and made it a sport of its own.

Since its creation, the list of countries where Padbol is played is becoming more extensive every day:

  • Argentina
  • Spain
  • Uruguay
  • Brazil
  • Italy
  • Mexico
  • Portugal
  • Sweden
  • Romania
  • Australia
  • France
  • Panama
  • Denmark
  • Switzerland
  • China
  • Belgium
  • Puerto Rico
  • Germany
  • Bolivia
  • Ecuador
  • Paraguay
  • Chile

How do you play Padbol?

  • Scoring and serving positioning is the same as in tennis.
  • Serve: the ball must bounce once first before serving. The ball must travel across diagonally to the opponent's’ side, landing in the serve area.
  • When receiving the ball, it can’t be returned at first touch, unless it bounces off the wall before landing in the opponent’s side.
  • First touch return it is only allowed in the red zone.
  • Passes between teammates. Maximum of 3.
  • Maximum of 2 touches per teammate.
  • Padbol is played in a court similar to padel, divided by a net.

Check out the video below and find out the basic rules of Padbol

Chess Boxing

Yes, you read correctly: there is a sport that combines boxing and chess. Amazing, right? The first time I found out about this sport I was in shock. If you are as curious as me, read on and discover a bit more about this rare sport.

Chess boxing is a unique combination of contrasting abilities. The player blends an athletic and strong body with a clear mind and rises above the mindless muscle. 

Up in the ring, the contestant is run by hormones like testosterone, adrenaline and the capacity of bringing another man down with only his fists.

Then, the game changes drastically. The battleground now is completely different. The fighter has to leave the fierceness and the fighting skills behind and focus on his logical reasoning side and the calmness of a chess environment.

Chessboxing is a good example of combining body and mind in one sport. They need to be smart to solve the challenges represented by decision making in chess. At the same time, they need to be physically strong and agile to beat their opponents when the boxing comes up.

How do You Play Chessboxing?

  • Every match consists of 11 alternating rounds of chess and boxing - there are 6 rounds dedicated to chess and 5 rounds dedicated to boxing-
  • Each round has a time duration of 3 minutes, both in chess and boxing
  • To be eligible to play chessboxing, the players must prove certain experience in boxing
  • Matches can be won due to checkmate in chess or KO or points decision in boxing
  • When playing chessboxing, you can compete in four different categories: Heavyweight, Light Heavyweight, Middleweight and Lightweight

Origins of Chessboxing

  • Chessboxing was inspired by the French graphic novel called “Froid Equateur”, published by Enki Bilal in 1992. In the novel’s cover, there is a man wearing boxing gloves with the motif of a chess board
  • In 2003, the dutch Iepe Rubingh invented this singular type of brain-and-brawn sport
  • The first competition of chessboxing was in Amsterdam, in 2003 between Jean Louis Veenstra and Iepe Rubingh
  • Nowadays chessboxing is played all over the world, from Germany to China, and most recently in Iran

Still thinking this might be a joke? Take a look at this video and discover the exciting world of chessboxing.

Buzkashi

Have you ever wondered what might be Afghanistan’s national sport? If you are a sports enthusiast like me, I have the answer right here for you. And no, it is not football, nor basketball, cricket or something even close to those sports. The national sport in Afghanistan is Buzkashi.

What is Buzkashi?

Basically, the sport consists of two teams of horse riders trying to score in the opponent’s goal -basket, a hole-. Similar to Polo right? Only a small difference: instead of a ball, a headless goat carcass is carried around by the players.

In fact, the word buzkashi literally means “goat pulling” in Persian. The sport is not only played in Afghanistan, but also in other regions of Central Asian countries.

Some Rules and Facts About Buzkashi

  • Depending on the region, it can also be played riding a yak
  • Some ethnics groups use calves or sheep carcasses
  • The field can be played in an officially marked court, but sometimes it is played in fields with no boundaries
  • The goat is killed 24h before, decapitated and disemboweled
  • Unlike bullfighting where the killing is part of the sport, in buzkashi, the killing takes place before the practice itself, so it must be seen with a different perspective
  • The sport is spread across Asia, even reaching areas of Turkey and China as well
  • In some places, a Buzkashi game can last for days
  • It’s believed that the origin of buzkashi leads back to the Afghan tribes galloping on their horsebacks trying to steal rival tribe’s goats
  • Similar to elite western sports, the best athletes are sponsored by rich influencers in the region, seeking public recognition
  • Although banned during Taliban times, the sport’s popularity shows no signs of declining in the region

Here’s a comedic breakdown to understand this ancient yet controversial sport:

Jai alai

Did you know what the speed reached by the ball in the world’s fastest game? You might be surprised to know that balls in Jai Alai can travel as fast as 170 mph (273 km/h).

But, what is Jai Alai and how can the players throw the ball at such speeds? Jai Alai is a sport played by throwing a ball at high speeds against a wall, helped with a hand-held device called “Cesta”. It is a variation of another sport called “Pelota Vasca”.

Jai Alai is a popular sport within the Latin American countries, especially in Spain. It is also played in the Philippines, due to its Hispanic influence.

Along with horse racing, it was used as a gambling sport in Chinese cities as Shanghai and Tianjin, when they were partially under the British empire. 

In the state of Florida, the sport gained some popularity due to the Latino community in the area. The game was used as a gambling sport and is still played nowadays.

The Origins

Jai Alai's history is controversial and argued upon by experts. The three main theories widely accepted are:

  • Some believe the sport was first played in ancient Egypt and Greece
  • Others believe the game started somewhere in between France and Spain, up in the Pyrenees Mountains
  • Lastly, some believe that the sport was invented in Central America, and brought back by the Spanish Empire to Europe

Despite the confusion about its origins, the game as we know it today was invented in the Basque region in Spain by Juan Dithurbe. By creating the “Cesta” Juan brought the sport to life, and shortly after it became very popular.

How do You Play Jai Alai?

The court (cancha) is walled in the front and back sides, as well as on one of the sides, leaving the other one open (typically built for right-handed players).

  • Jai Alai can be played individually or as doubles. If played with a teammate, one will cover the front side of the court, and the other one the backside of the court. The latter one will be responsible for serving
  • The first team to score 7 points wins the game
  • The ball is handcrafted, made out of metal strands tightly wound together and then wrapped in goatskin
  • Teams alternate catching the ball in their “Cesta” and throwing it in without holding or juggling the ball
  • The sport held once the world record for ball speed with a ball that traveled at 188mph (302 km/h). Now that record belongs to a golf ball that reached 204 mph (328 km/h)

Eukonkanto or Wife Carrying

Among the demonstrations of love that exists in marriage, carrying your wife on your shoulders through the mud doesn’t sound the most romantic of them all. Except for in Finland, where dozens of couples compete every year to be the fastest to reach the goal line.

How do You Play Eukonkanto or Wife Carrying?

Eukonkanto (wife carrying in North America or naisekandmine in Estonia) is a sport in which the male participants compete running with a female partner on his shoulders. The objective of the game is to reach the goal line running through obstacles as fast as possible. There are two common ways to carry: in one shoulder or the Estonian style.

The most important competitions in the world are held in Sonkajarvi (Finland) -where the prize is the weight of the “wife” in beer- Monona (Wisconsin) and Marquette (Michigan).

Here are 10 facts you should know before participating in the Eukonkanto World Championships:

  1. The length of the race is 277 yards or 253,5 m.
  2. Typically there are two dry obstacles - sand, gravel, grass- and one wet obstacle -3, 28 feet or 1m depth water, or mud-.
  3. The woman carried must be over 17 years old.
  4. The minimum weight for the woman carried must be 49 kg or 108 lbs. If lighter, additional weight can be added to meet the specifications
  5. All the participants must have fun.
  6. Every time the participants drop their partners, they get a penalty of 15 seconds.
  7. The only gear permitted is a belt for the carrier and one helmet for the women carried.
  8. Participants must play only in couples.
  9. There is only one category in the World Championship.
  10. Aside from the prize for the winners, there are also prizes for the funniest couple, the best-dressed couple and the strongest carrier.

Origins of Eukonkanto

There are three theories accepted to explain the origins of wife-carrying:

  1. The sport comes from ancient techniques of flirting: the men from villages would run to the women’s village, take them and escaping together. Romantic, isn’t it?
  2. A legendary thief called “Ronkainen the Robber” in Finland trained his gang to steal goods and other women from the villages around
  3. Ronkainen trained his thieves by carrying sacks on their backs, and then this practice evolved into a sport

The first modern-day wife-carrying event was held in Finland in 1992.

Foreign contestants were admitted after 1995.

The World Championships is held in Sonkajarvi, Finland.

North American first competition began in 1999.

Want to prove your love to your beloved wife? Take a look at this video first and good luck!

Sepak Takraw

Sepak Takraw pronounced [se ‘pak ta ‘kro], is a sport with Asian roots, with huge popularity in Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Camboya, Malaysia, Laos, and Indonesia. 

The game is a combination of soccer and volleyball. The main difference is the size of the ball, which is way smaller, increasing thus the difficulty.

Did I mention only kicking the ball is allowed? This increases the difficulty and gives a spectacularity to the game that makes it very exciting to watch. Top players display an amazing combination of agility, power, flexibility and acrobatic skills that will leave you speechless.

History of Speak Takraw

The sport has been played for centuries, although remains unknown in the western world. In the beginning, only the kids and men could play Sepak Takraw: they would play in a circle and kicking the ball made out of bamboo.

The modern version of the sport started in 1800 when Sepak Takraw started to have rules. Back then, the net was introduced and it wouldn’t be played in circle no more. The ball has also changed, now it is made out of synthetic fiber.

In 1829, the Association of Sports in Siam set the first rules of competitive takraw. Four years later, in 1833, the volleyball net was introduced and the first tournament was held. Years later, the sport was introduced as a part of the curriculum in the schools.

The game was so popular that a tournament was organized to celebrate the first constitution in 1933.

Nowadays, the game is regulated by the International Sepaktakraw Federation (ISTAF).

Since the Asian Games in Beijing 1990, the game is categorized as an “Asian Olympic game”.

It is believed that the origins of the game are mainly based on the Chinese game known as cuju, similar to kemari in Japan. The sport is believed to be imported with the first commercial relationships between Asian countries, back in the XV century.

Basic Rules of Sepak Takraw

  • It is played by 2 teams of 3 players each
  • The court’s size is similar to a badminton court
  • The net is 4,92 feet or 1,5 m high
  • The ball can’t be played with arms, forearms or hands
  • Each team is allowed a maximum of 3 touches of the ball to pass it over the side without letting it touch the ground
  • The team winning the first 15 points (or 21 in some cases) by a difference of 2 wins a set. The first team winning 2 sets wins the game

Here is a compilation of some unbelievable rallies played in Sepak takraw, Enjoy:

 

Bo-taoshi

Is it a battle? Is it a sport? Might be both? Bo-taoshi is a very rare sport that catches our attention because of the brutality displayed and the violence used to beat your opponents.

Bo-taoshi is a Japanese sport which objective consists in taking down the opponent’s base or flag - represented by a pole - while defending your own. In order to win the game, the poles must be tipped at least 30 degrees for at least 90 seconds. Similarly to Calcio Storico, almost any contact is allowed.

The sport is played by the cadets at the National Defense Academy (NDA) of Japan, a tradition that started after World War II. Every year the game is played to celebrate the anniversary of the Academy. However, due to the violence of the game, it has been banned in some cities.

Origins

There is no consensus when it comes to establish an origin to the sport. Some historians suggest that similar games were practiced in XIX.

However, others like the historian Japanese Minoru Matsunami say that the game started exclusively after WW II. 

Since Japan had lost the war, the sport could have been used to practice against future attacks on the country.

Since founded, the game hasn't’ seen any fundamental variations in its rules. The most important variation occurred in 1973 when the minimum inclination in order to win the game was changed from 45 degrees to 30 degrees.

This change increased the violence of the sport, due to the increase of difficulty of taking down the other team’s pole.

Rules of Bo-taoshi

  • There are two teams of 75 players each. Yes, 150 in total
  • The field is 328 yards or 300 meters long
  • The pole has a height of 11,4 feet or 3,5 m
  • The pole must be tipped at least 30 degrees for at least 90 seconds
  • One of the players will be hanging at the top of the pole until the game ends. This player is known as the “ninja”
  • The ninja’s role is to keep the pole to be taken down by balancing it with his or her own weight
  • Any violent action is allowed, except for biting

Check out the incredible coordination of the Japanese Bo-taoshi players in this video:

About BestSportsLounge.com

There is more other (and much more fun) sports than football, soccer and hockey.

At Best Sports Lounge my team and I will explore many other sports the world has to offer.

Hi, I am Simon, and I have been enjoing sports on and off my entire life, I have a passion for something different.

If you are looking for inspiration beyond the most popular sports in the world, then you have come to the right place.