The annual sporting calendar is full of physical contests that engage, enrapture and entertain in equal measure. However, away from the glare of the media spotlight, a culture of alternative sporting heroes thrives. Putting their minds and bodies on the line in some of the strangest ways imaginable, these competitors are the embodiment of eccentricity.
Keeping on top of the latest developments in the eccentric sports world isn’t easy, which is why betfair have put together an alternative sports calendar. Documenting some of the strangest events of the year, this calendar is a great reference point for anyone who likes to enjoy something from leftfield.
To give you a flavour of the alternative sports world and give you a glimpse into some of the world’s different cultures at the same time, we’ve listed three of the weirdest games from the UK and beyond.
Shin Kicking Championship: Shoes, Straw and Strangeness
In the spectrum of toe-curling, pain-inducing sports, shin kicking has to be the worst. Originating in England and dating back to 1636, the game has one simple premise which is to kick your opponent into submission. To give you a more detailed look at the rules of shin kicking, check this out:
Competitors start by holding their opponent by the shoulders (or lapels) with arms straight.
The contest will be started, finished (if necessary) and judged, by an arbiter, known as a Stickler. The Stickler decides the fairness of a contest.
A contest is decided on the best of three throws – i.e. two successful throws results in a win.
Initially a somewhat more gentle sport (as gentle as a shin kick can be), shin kicking gradually became more brutal over the centuries, with the 19th century proving to be a particularly rough patch as villages took on each other in a battle of pride. Today, competitors from around the world pack their trousers with as much straw as possible before taking part in the competitions such as the Cotswold Olimpicks which take part in May every year.
Cheese Rolling Championship: A Tasty Cheese Roll
If you’ve never rolled a wheel of cheese down a hill and then chased after it like a mad man or woman, then you haven’t lived, according to the organisers of the Cheese Rolling Championships. Taking place in one of the UK’s traditional cheese-making counties, Gloucestershire, the event is actually a lot more dangerous than it sounds.
Every May for the last 200 years, contestants have converged at the top of Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester and wait for the famous cheese wheel to be launched down the slope. Pitched at a gradient of 1:2, controlling your pace down the hill is no mean feat and as people skid and fall in pursuit of the cheese, medics are always close by.
The person who manages to make it down the hill in one piece and catch the cheese before anyone else is declared the winner and handed the prize dairy product.
Buzkashi: When Dead Goats Meet Polo
When you think of polo, you think glasses of champagne, majestic horses and fancy clothes. There’s no doubt that polo is one of the most impressive spectacles on the sporting calendar. However, because we’re looking at the weirdest sports in the world, this safe sport isn’t one we’re including in this list. Instead, we’ve turned our gaze towards Asia and a sport known as buzkashi.
Believed to be derived from an early form of polo present in Iran and, moreover, the inspiration for modern day polo, this sport requires participants to drag a headless goat carcass while on horseback. As with most sports that involves two teams competing against each other, buzkashi includes a goal and the players all try to score as many as possible.
Despite sounding like a relic that we’ve excavated from sporting history, buzkashi is actually a game that’s still played today. Most popular in Uzbekistan, modern teams usually hail from the same family and top-level players can earn huge significant sums of money through monthly payments, bonuses and special gifts that can include luxury cars.
Alternative sports, unsurprisingly, do not usually show up on everyone’s radar but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth watching. While the annual shin kicking championships might not hold the same sort of prestige as the World Cup, it’s an entertaining spectacle nonetheless. The three whacky sports listed in this article are the tip of a very large iceberg and if you want to check out more we suggest you check out the alternative sports calendar.