Unconventional sports around the world

June, 2024

Sepak takraw

Sepak takraw originates from Southeast Asia and shares many similarities with traditional Southeast Asian sports like chinlone, which is from Myanmar, and sipa, which is from the Philippines. Sepak takraw is similar to volleyball but with one key difference: players can only touch the ball with their feet, knees, chest, and head. This makes for interesting, acrobatic matches as players often do flips and bicycle kicks to hit the ball. Sepak takraw was first standardized in Malaysia in 1960. It can be played indoors or outdoors, and teams consist of two to four members. In recent years, sepak takraw’s dynamism and uniqueness have brought it popularity in Europe, Africa, and the Americas.


Hurling is a traditional Gaelic team sport with origins in Ireland. The sport is currently administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association. It is an exclusively outdoor game, and teams consist of fifteen players with several substitutes. In hurling games, players use a stick called a hurley to hit a ball called a sliotar into a net. The sport is similar to lacrosse and American football, but the only protective padding players are required to wear is a helmet. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization has labeled hurling as an element of intangible cultural heritage because of its deep connection to traditional Gaelic values. For example, the sport promotes humility by not letting athletes put their names on their jerseys.


Bossaball was invented in Brazil. This sport includes elements of volleyball, gynmastics, music, and soccer. The court it is played on is also unconventional — a large inflatable ring with trampolines on either side of a central net. Bossaball is typically an outdoor sport and is usually played on the beach. Teams consist of four players, and each team can touch the ball a maximum of five times before sending it over the net. The most unique part of the sport is its musical aspect. Referees, called “samba referees,” equally serve as DJs and Masters of Ceremony. The word “bossa” is also associated with “bossa nova,” a Brazilian style of music that has become popular worldwide.