Its played with passion behind pagodas, in wat (temple) courtyards, at the Asian games, and in most countries around the world but Sepak Takraw still needs to make it to the Olympics. The equivalent of playing volleyball with your feet, sepak takraw, or kick volleyball in Malay is an indigenously Asian game, played throughout Southeast Asia.
Played by kicking a rattan ball over a badminton high net, the game is a combination of gymnastics, football, volleyball and a bit of kung fu thrown in for good measure. Rules and the point system are similar to volleyball, there are three members to a team, two teams and players can use their head, body, legs or any other part for volleying and smashing the ball except their hands. Thailand is till date, the world champion in sepak takraw.
The game originated in China and is based on the Chinese game of cuju (kick ball) and traveled to Southeast Asia through early trade routes.
In Bangkok, murals at Wat Phra Keow depict the Hindu god Hanuman playing takraw in a ring with a troop of monkeys. Other historical accounts mention the game earlier during the reign of King Naresuan of Ayutthaya. The game remained in its circle form for hundreds of years, and the modern version of sepak takraw began taking shape in Thailand sometime during early 1740s.
In 1866 the Siam Sports Association drafted the first rules for takraw competition. Four years later, the association introduced the volleyball-style net and held the first public contest. Within just a few years, takraw was introduced to the curriculum in Siamese schools. The game became such a cherished local custom that another exhibition of volleyball-style takraw was staged to celebrate the kingdom’s first constitution in 1933, the year after Thailand abolished absolute monarchy. Later in 1935, the game was first played differently in the state of Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia during the Silver Jubilee celebration of SMK King George V.
By the 1940s, the net version of the game had spread throughout Southeast Asia, and formal rules were introduced. In the Philippines the sport was called “Sipa”, in Myanmar, or Burma, it was dubbed “Chinlone”, in Laos “Kator”, “cầu mây” in Vietnam and in Indonesia “Raga.
It is also recorded that in one of his many trips, the merchant Marco Polo brought back to Europe a game from China which was kicking an implement into the air and counting the number of kicks, a style resembling today’s sepak takraw game.