Brazil’s ver­sion of chin­lone draws eyes in Rio

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

THE coolest sport in Brazil takes place out­side the Olympic bub­ble. There are no cam­eras or an­thems, cer­tainly more met­tle than medals. To find it, you need only stroll along Ipanema beach, where young boys fly kites and tourists and lo­cals alike spread their tow­els. In the morn­ings, it’s usu­ally quiet, the waves crash­ing the shore­line and ven­dors just start­ing to hawk ev­ery­thing from sun­glasses to grilled meats to al­co­holic drinks. It’s not too early for a caipir­inha, ap­par­ently, and it’s not too early for Mar­cello Lepre, the top-ranked footvolley player in Rio de Janeiro.

The 26-year-old is an ac­ro­batic whiz in a sport that re­quires as much ath­leti­cism, flex­i­bil­ity and quick­ness as most of the Olympic com­pe­ti­tions be­ing staged here this month. Footvolley is a hy­brid sport, born on Copaca­bana beach more than 50 years ago when foot­ball play­ers, ei­ther bored or en­ter­pris­ing, be­gan jug­gling a soc­cer ball over a net. It’s part vol­ley­ball, part soc­cer and wholly in­tox­i­cat­ing: Imag­ine vol­ley­ball in which play­ers can use any body part ex­cept their arms and hands. Get­ting the ball over the net might be as sim­ple as a header or as beau­ti­ful as a bi­cy­cle kick.

(Footvolley ap­pears to be al­most the ex­act same as Myan­mar’s chin­lone played over a net, with a foot­ball in­stead of the rat­tan ball and a vol­ley­ball net in­stead of the lower nets cus­tom­ary to chin­lone, also known as caneball.)

Lepre has been play­ing since he was five years old, grav­i­tat­ing to­ward footvolley rather than soc­cer. He’s a pro­fes­sional in a sport that isn’t par­tic­u­larly lu­cra­tive, but the lithe young man is recog­nis­able to any reg­u­lar along Ipanema beach, where footvolley nets out­num­ber vol­ley­ball courts. Lepre ar­rives ev­ery morn­ing for train­ing and re­turns each af­ter­noon to play all com­ers. Pick-up games could draw crowds, es­pe­cially those in­clined to lay down a bet or two.

“It’s a beau­ti­ful sport,” Lepre says. “It’s fun to play, and it’s beau­ti­ful to watch.”

Lepre, who has won two world cham­pi­onships, is hopeful the sport con­tin­ues to grow. As it is now, he scores mod­est cash prizes from win­ning tour­na­ments and makes ends meet by help­ing at his fam­ily’s ice cream par­lour.

Re­nato Ad­net is the founder of the Rio de Janeiro Footvolley Fed­er­a­tion and has or­gan­ised leagues and tour­na­ments across the coun­try. He com­mis­sioned a study that found more than 40,000 play­ers in Brazil and said the sport has spread to 70 coun­tries in some fash­ion. In Brazil, for­mer soc­cer stars such as Romário and Ronald­inho are some of footvolley’s most fa­mous ad­her­ents.

Once the Olympics packs up its rings and leaves town, the beach vol­ley­ball arena on Copaca­bana beach will be used for footvolley’s world cham­pi­onships. Or­gan­is­ers are hopeful they can fill 12,000 seats and ride the Olympic wave to­ward more in­ter­na­tional ex­po­sure. Twenty-three coun­tries will take part, in­clud­ing teams from the United States, Japan and Aus­tralia, in two-per­son and four-per­son tour­na­ments.

In Brazil, the sport can be found at all hours of the day on most of Rio’s beaches – as long as the rain isn’t fall­ing and the wind is calm – and also in parks of land-locked cities such as Manaus and Brasilia. One re­cent morn­ing on Ipanema, Jer­son Fer­nan­des, a 53-year-old for­mer pro­fes­sional soc­cer player who now trains footvolley hope­fuls, barked in­struc­tions at a young woman.

He booted a serve from the back­line over the net and watched as the young player let the ball bounce off her chest.

“Higher!” he yelled in Por­tuguese. “Put the ball higher. How are you gonna do this? You’re too cold.”

While some of the foot­work might trans­late to the beach, many soc­cer play­ers still strug­gle adapt­ing to the sport. Mov­ing on sand is more dif­fi­cult. Us­ing the shoul­ders and chest to pop the ball to a team­mate takes some learn­ing. Keep­ing the ball sky­ward can be counter-in­tu­itive.

“It is hard to com­pare,” Fer­nan­des said. “Yes, you use your feet at times, but the rest is dif­fer­ent. The pos­ture and dy­nam­ics are to­tally dif­fer­ent, the things you must do are to­tally dif­fer­ent.”

– The Wash­ing­ton Post

Photo: Aung Htay Hlaing

Two men con­test a kick at the net dur­ing a game of chin­lone in a vil­lage out­side Yan­gon.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.