The little known but ancient sport of fistball is gaining popularity among South Africans looking for an active pastime that is a little different and a lot of fun. Their passion for the sport has culminated in the hosting of the fistball World Cup in Cape Town on 14 and 15 October 2016.
What is fistball?
Described as a faster, more aggressive version of volleyball, fistball dates back to 240AD. The sport became popular again in 16th century Italy, where the rules of the game were first officially devised and recorded.
Watch and learn the game’s rules:
During the late 19th century, fistball became popular in Germany, whose emigrants then spread the game to the rest of the world, including South America and West Africa.
It was introduced into the United States in 1911, where it enjoyed small but enthusiastic support at some of the country’s youth summer camps.
A world governing body was formed in 1960, which began holding international championship tournaments for men and women every four years. The sport is dominated by German-speaking countries such as Switzerland and Namibia (which won the 1995 championship), and South American countries such as Brazil and Argentina. Fistball is also part of the alternative, non-Olympic sports event, the World Games.
By 2014, countries such as Australia, India and South Africa had started competing in the sport.
Meet the stars of South African fistball: Dr Strangeglove, Moerfist, Mr Fistievous and the rest of team:
The first South African team, and later the Fistball Association of South Africa (Fasa), was started in 2014 by Capetonian Leif Petersen, who was looking for an alternative sport to play as a way to make his mark representing his country.
Petersen told the Mail & Guardian in 2015: “It’s always been every kid’s dream to play for their country, and as I gradually came to the realisation that I would never get the nod for the Proteas cricket team, I had to find a smaller pond where I could be a bigger fish.”
Petersen brought together an eclectic group of local sport enthusiasts from all walks of life, including artists, business professionals, conservationists and refugees, to form the sport’s first amateur fistball team: the Galjoens, named after South Africa’s national fish.
— CD Anderson (@bizarrojerri) October 13, 2016
Playing in public parks with rudimentary equipment fashioned from safety barrier tape and tent poles, the sport proved to be a fun but gruelling way to bring together a variety of South Africans and combine their love of sport with good humour and ham-fisted puns.
Soon other teams formed around Cape Town, including the Kaapse Fisters, the North Beach Knuckle-Dusters and Goldfister. The first annual South African championship, the aptly named Fistivus, was held in 2015.
The Galjoens also took part in their first world championship, held in Argentina in November 2015. They finished last, but according to Petersen, a lot of fun was had at the tournament and the players learnt a lot about how the game was played on a global level.
The Fistball World Cup
— FistballSouthAfrica (@FistballSA) October 6, 2016
At the end of 2015, Petersen received approval from the fistball world governing body in Germany to hold a World Cup tournament, bringing the best fistball club teams in the world to compete in Cape Town on 14 and 15 October 2016.
The event will be held at the Vygieskraal Sports Ground, Belgravia, Cape Town, and will feature visiting clubs from Germany, Brazil and Argentina. The tournament will also debut the long-awaited documentary on the unconventional story of fistball in South Africa, featuring interviews with players and highlights of all the local teams in action.For more information, visit the Fistball Association of South Africa Facebook page.
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