We’re going to take a look at this fascinating and exceptionally entertaining sport - a good enough reason in itself to jump on a plane to Thailand! From the history of how this bizarre game came to be, to how it’s played today and the best places to go see it in action, here’s the lowdown on one of the world’s weirdest sports!
It is widely believed that the origins of using elephants in sports started in Surin Province, Thailand, also known to locals as “Surin the land of elephants”. Surin Province is made up of many small agricultural towns in the north east of Thailand, where most of the residents are farmers and have long used elephants to help them in their work. Although still useful for farming, in recent years the farmers have had to use elephants for entertainment to make a living as the economic importance of elephants has decreased. This is one of the main causes of the rise in popularity of elephant football.
The people of Thailand claim the game originated in Surin around the beginning of the twentieth century, though some claim it started in Nepal, and others, India.
Where to Watch
Although you will be able to find mediocre jumbo soccer games being played all around the northern parts of Thailand, the absolute best place to see the game in full swing is at the Surin Elephant Festival. There are two ways to experience this festival - guided or unguided. If you want to make sure you see all that the festival has to offer and get to know a bit more of the history, then a guided visit is most likely the better option. During the festival you can expect to see many games of elephant football as well as elephant tug of war and a procession of up to 300 elephant marching through the city.
The festival happens every November and will run from the 8th-24th November in 2013.
As you can imagine, the rules to this game aren't your standard football rules, but of course the offside rule still applies! The number of elephants on a team seems to vary but they are always equally sided, with the elephants being ridden by elephant jockeys who control the animals with reigns.
The referees in this game are notoriously harsh and don’t allow any foul play! There are numerous fouls in this game that are certainly different from the normal slide tackle! The main rules are as follows:
- No trampling while the ball is in play - this one seems a bit vague and there doesn't seem to be a definition to let us know what constitutes as trampling, but just don’t do it!
- No piercing the ball with your tusks – nobody likes a spoilsport and kicking around a deflated ball just isn't as much fun.
- No “trunking” – this means no blocking the other players and using the trunk as an arm to hold back the opposing side.
- No stepping on the ball – the only contact between the ball and the elephant should be a kick or tap.
- No large goalies – in other words, the goalie must not be wider than the goal itself, for obvious reasons.
So now you know the rules and reasons behind what can only be described as a magnificent game! All that’s left to do is grab yourself a flight to Thailand and decide which elephant football team to support!
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