Obscure Sports Weekly: Sepak Takraw

Created in Malaysia about 500 years ago, Sepak Takraw is similar to soccer, tennis and volleyball. It is played competitively around the world, but is most well-known in Asia. The words ‘sepak takraw’ have roots in both Malay and Thai. The word ‘sepak’ means ‘kick’ in Malay, and ‘takraw’ means ‘ball’ in Thai.

Sepak Takraw is played indoors on a court roughly the size of a badminton court, which is about 20-feet-by-44-feet. The court is cut in half by a net. Each team includes three players who work together to get the ball over the net. The goal is for the opposing team to be unable to return it. Players are able to use their heads, torso and legs to move the ball but are not allowed to use their hands or arms.

There are four positions on the court: the striker, the feeder, the server and the setter. The setter’s job is to position the ball so that the striker can make an attack, and the feeder is the player who moves the ball back across the net. The striker is the equivalent of a front-row hitter in volleyball. This position is the hardest on the court because it requires the player to bring his or her feet above the net in order to kick the ball. Using a combination of acrobatics, the striker must propel him or herself off the ground, flip forward and kick the ball back across the net with as much force as possible. Professional players have used this move, called the “Sunback Spike”, to make the ball travel at speeds up to 75 mph.

The game begins with one player serving the grapefruit-sized ball across the net. The server must keep one foot inside the small “serving circle” at the center of the court and kick the ball with the other foot. Once the ball is in play, each team can touch the ball a maximum of three times before returning it over the net. Each team earns points if successful in hitting the ball over the net without the opposing team returning it. After three consecutive points are scored by a team, the other team serves the ball until the next three consecutive points are scored, regardless of which team wins the points. A team wins the set with a total of 21 points. The team who wins two sets in a row is the winner of the match.

The International Sepak Takraw Federation (ISTAF) is the governing body of sepak takraw teams worldwide. These teams are mainly centered in Asia, with the United States and Iran having the only non-Asian competitive teams. The current team standings have Thailand in the lead for both men and women’s teams, followed closely by Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore. Each year the ISTAF holds the Sepak Takraw SuperSeries, which is a competitive tournament for all the international teams. The 2016 SuperSeries is scheduled to begin later this year.

Photo courtesy of: http://imgur.com/gallery/69X40.

Jesse Lundervold

Jesse is a senior chemistry and studio art major and the Lifestyle Editor for the Hilltop Monitor.

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