If you love music and hanging out with friends in the sun, the Spanish sport Bossaball would be right up your alley. Combining elements of football, volleyball, and rhythmic gymnastics, a game of Bossaball will leave you happily winded. Translated from Brazilian Portuguese, “bossa” means style of flair – and it is clear that this game is not without flamboyance. It is most definitely challenging, with a rich cultural root that aims to bring people together through sport, dance, and song. If you ever get the chance to see or play a game the next (hopefully soon) time you are in Spain, join in on the positive vibes and relish in the summer days.
The concept of Bossaball was created by native Belgian Filip Eyckmans who was living in Spain for more than ten years around the early 2000s. Eyckmans was a tennis player on the national team in Belgium in his youth, making him quite the athlete. However, outside of practice he enjoyed assisting and watching live soccer matches and DJ-ing private parties. It is not hard to imagine how the concept of lumping all Eyckmans interests together gave rise to the now increasingly popular sport. Back to that backstory though, in the early 90s Eyckman became the manager of a band called dEUS, among others. On a tour with dEUS through Brazil, he was exposed to and became obsessed with the Afro-Brazilian capoeira. Capoeira in itself is a mix of acrobatics, martial arts, and lively exotic music. The dance style is characterised by lots of jumping and inverted kicking, making it quite the attention grabber.
It is no surprise that capoeira caught the attention of Eyckman on his tour. Relaxing on the beach of Recife, seeing how engaged everyone was around him got him thinking. Plus, around this same time beach volleyball was booming and more people were playing casually on beaches as well as competitively. So, in an effort to combine all he had learned and appreciated into one amazing sport and experience, Bossaball was born. It is the perfect blend of football, gymnastics, volleyball and upbeat music. It is no doubt a captivating sport that is not only enjoyable, but requires a great deal of athleticism and skill.
“Typically played out in the sun on the beach, the trampolines allow players to jump high enough to spike the ball over the net and score.”
The rules of the game are rather simple, but another surprising feature that only makes it more impressive of the skill you see when watching a game, is that it is played on an inflatable court featuring a trampoline on each side of the net. The net is in the middle like a typical volleyball court, dividing it in two. Typically played out in the sun on the beach, the trampolines allow players to jump high enough to spike the ball over the net and score. Bossaball is played between two teams of four players and the primary objective, again similar to volleyball, is to hit the ball on the group of the opponents’ half. Depending on the skill level of players and teams, the net’s height can be raised to make it more difficult to score and lowered to make it easier to play.
“Although it may be surprising that this sport is actually played professionally, if you have ever seen a YouTube video of Bossaball this surprise will quickly be dampened.”
Although it may be surprising that this sport is actually played professionally, if you have ever seen a YouTube video of Bossaball this surprise will quickly be dampened. You will see people flying up into the air, kicking and dancing to the music. It is sometimes easy to forget the close similarities of it to volleyball and football. Players are not allowed to touch the net at any point in the game, and must keep at least one body part on their own respective side. One player, conventionally called the attacker, starts off in the center on the trampoline, with other players on the inflatable part. A player from the serving team then either throws or kicks the ball so that it lands in the opposing team’s court. The receiving team then has no more than five touches to attempt to return the ball and begin a volley back and forth.
There are two types of touches in typical Bossaball: volley touch and football touch. A volley touch follows traditional volleyball rules, where the ball can be bumped, set, or spiked. Throwing the ball or holding it for more than a second is against the rules. The other touch, a football touch, is where a lot of the real acrobatic skill is apparent and shines through, is done by touching the ball up to two times without using the hands or arms. It can also be called a double football touch or DST. A DST is counted as a single pass and an example could be hitting it first with the chest and then kicking it to a teammate or over the net. Of the five contacts, the football touch has to be used after the second pass has been played. Again, this forces the creativity and gymnastic like techniques to exemplify themselves and characterise game play.
An official match is the best of three sets, the first two sets being played to 21 points and the third to 15 points, being two points ahead to win that set. The different touches allow for different points to be earned in successful grounding of the ball, with football touches being awarded more than volley touches due to the increased skill level required. More points also can be earned if a team scores by hitting it into the opponents’ trampoline area rather than the whole playing area.
“…the main overseer of the game, called the “samba referee”, not only makes calls, but also serves as the Master of Ceremonies by using a whistle, microphone, and music facilities like a DJ set and drums.”
Referees oversee the game very similarly to volleyball, with three referees making sure gameplay is adhered to. The primary referee focuses on the net and has the final say in decisions. Meanwhile, the other two assistant referees oversee opposite ends of the court and keep track of the maximum amount of touches, football touches, and deciding whether or not the ball is hit in or out of bounds. Perhaps even more important and interesting, the main overseer of the game, called the “samba referee”, not only makes calls, but also serves as the Master of Ceremonies by using a whistle, microphone, and music facilities like a DJ set and drums. Several international championships have been played since 2005 all over the world, including but not limited to the Netherlands, Czech Republic, and Turkey.
Ultimately, Bossaball is not only an internationally recognised sport, but an encapsulating watch that is quickly becoming more popular around the world. With its origins in Spain and Brazil as well, it is quite the combination of athletic ability and entertainment. Teams are really put to the test in a competitive game of Bossaball, with lots of onlookers cheering them on and enjoying the energy. Who knows, maybe it’ll even come to Ireland one day.