Sepak takraw is a very popular sport in Southeast Asia. It requires athleticism, flexibility, and teamwork. In this sport, three teammates work together to hit a ball across a net using only their feet, knees, chest and head. The ball is not allowed to touch the players’ arms or hands. Players use their flexibility to twist, jump, and kick with grace and power. The goal of the game is for one team to score more points than the other team. Players score points when they cause their opponents to fault. Faults occur when players make errors like hitting the ball out of bounds or missing the ball. Each team can only hit the ball three times in a row before the other team must hit it.
Sepak takraw has been around in different forms for a very long time. Since the 15th century, different versions of sepak takraw have been played across many Asian countries. One version most likely came from a Chinese military program. As part of this program, soldiers would kick a ball and try to keep it in the air with their feet. At the time, the ball was made from animal hide and chicken feathers. This version of sepak takraw was less of a sport, and more of an exercise for soldiers to stretch their legs and practice their agility. Throughout Asia, people played other versions of sepak takraw for centuries with their own rules. In fact, the game has different names in different places. In Thailand, it is called “takraw,” and in Laos it is “kataw.” In Malaysia, it is called “sepak raga.” One distinct version of the game is found in Myanmar and is called “chinlone.” In this version, teams do not compete against each other, but perform together in a playing circle. The goal of the game is to keep the ball in the air in graceful and entertaining ways.
The more modern, simplified version of sepak takraw was made official almost 200 years ago in Thailand, then called Siam. In 1829, the Siam Sports Association created the first official rules of the game. The organization added the net between the teams and hosted the first public tournament. Within just a few years, sepak takraw was played in most Thai schools. The game became very popular. It was even played to celebrate the kingdom’s first constitution in 1933!
Even with this popularity, sepak takraw did not have standardized rules across Asia until the 1960s. The Asian Sepak Takraw Federation created the first set of formalized rules across Asia. The game took on the official name of sepak takraw. For many years, Thailand and Malaysia have dominated sepak takraw tournaments. And over the years, this sport has gained international popularity. Many people in Asia are calling for sepak takraw to become an official Olympic sport. Making sepak takraw an Olympic sport would broaden its audience even more.
Sepak takraw is an entertaining, fast-paced sport with a long and varied history. Spectators love to watch players do gravity-defying kicks and use their whole body to keep the ball up in the air. Have you seen or played in a sepak takraw game?