A lot of attention is paid to sports in the United States, but the craze for competition goes well beyond American shores. For those of you who love sports and can’t imagine a semester without the sports pages, ESPN or sports talk, don’t worry there’s hope abroad. In America we love our football. In Europe they have..well, football and in Australia they have.. well football. The Aussies may also call it Footie and the Europeans may call it The Beautiful Game and for those of you considering study abroad it is yet another chance to experience cultural immersion.
From Finland to East Asia let’s explore some of the silliest, wackiest, and most outrageous competitions around. At first glance these sports will make your head spin, but pull up a chair, pop open a beverage, stoke up the grill and join the global tailgate, because sports abroad can be as entertaining as it gets!
First stop Finland:
Land of fine chocolates, fiord hockey and cheerful shoes. Finland has been the butt of many jokes about cultures both strange and exotic. But really, she’s a good country and one that plays host to one of the world’s most triumphant competitions known, in Fin-speak, as Eukankanto. Translation: Wife Carrying.
The pictured ‘carry’ is known as Estonian style. Wife Carrying is a heralded sport in it’s European home that not surprisingly has penetrated other cultures across the continents. On competition day, an annual event, wives will enjoy having their husband lunge through sandy, fenced, and wet obstacles all while just inches from their partner’s bum. Ultimately, the prize to gain is not the glory of “World Wife Carrying Champion” but rather the grand prize of your wife’s weight in beer.
Next stop, Japan where you might have thought Sumo was as strange or bizarre as it gets. No, we found a sport that may have started as a training regiment for Power Rangers. It is called Bo Taoshi and it looks something like this:
(YOUTUBE LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNVkXNdH2mA)
The object of the game is for the defending team to keep its pole at full mast for as long as possible. As you can see from the video, there is an attacking team that will scrape, claw, fight, and even walk on you to bring it down. The match ends when the pole is tilted to a 35-degree angle from its 90 degree start. It doesn’t seem like there a lot of regulation but there is surely a lot of participation. It cannot be for the faint of heart since the Japanese military uses it as a training exercise for recruits. This bizarre sport should probably be reserved for adults considering its extremely physical nature, but I for one would love to be in the Fujitsu super box watching this one replayed over and over!
Moving away from the made for TV sports, our last comes from Central Asia, the region consisting of countries like Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan. There you will find something very out of this world and something that I can assure you the NCAA will never sanction on campuses. It is a very widely played sport in this area and also the national sport of Afghanistan called Buzkashi. Translation: Goat Bashing.
Okay so it isn’t exactly how it sounds. Goat Bashing is more of a relative translation. The sport more so involves the use of a goat and probably more bashing of other riders instead of the goat…which starts the game dead. The fierce competition begins with a dead goat lying on the ground and 10 men on horseback. Basically the object of the game is to snag the goat up from the desert ground and carry it to the goal. Matches can be played as teams or individually where every rider plays for their self. Some of these matches see hundreds, maybe even thousands, of spectators during the season that spans from November to mid-spring. Before anyone gets too judgmental, try to imagine what your typical Central Asian resident would think of the BCS Championship or the Final Four and all of its unbridled enthusiasm. Fun fact about Buzkashi, it was actually banned by the Taliban regime but since their ousting from control, the sport is being enjoyed by Afghanistan’s people once more.
If you love sports like I do, and you want to study abroad, let me assure you that missing one Iron Bowl or Red River Shootout, Holy War or World’s Largest Cocktail Party (all annual rival Football games for you non football lovers) for the likes of Buzkashi, Bo Taoshi or Eukankanto is, as they say, PRICELESS! People everywhere share a love for competition and it can be a way for you to connect with the new environments that lie ahead of you. Competition is in our blood and can often be very healthy, unless you are the goat! If you’re headed for a part of the world that Fox NFL Sunday doesn’t cover then I’d say explore what kinds of sports satisfy the locals. You can bring your culture to them, tailgate and chant and maybe even participate if you try hard enough. If not, then no worries. Kick back, see the sights, and have faith in the thought that you definitely aren’t the only one to do a double take at some of these bizarre events.
Interested in exploring sports abroad? Visit Abroad101.com for programs all over the world.