I’m not going to lie to you, the first time someone mentioned Petanque to me, my reaction was to say: “Oh, that’s that game old people play!” While there are a lot of senior citizens enjoying the sport, there is a lot more to it than that. This piece is dedicated to five things you probably didn’t know about Petanque. It’s more than just playing marbles with oversized balls.
Your first instinct would probably tell you that the name Petanque comes from the sound the boules make when they hit each other. While an interesting hypothesis, the truth is a little different. Petanque was born from a similar game, called La Ciotat. One of the differences between the two is that, in La Ciotat, the players had to run a few steps for the sake of momentum. Petanque is a variation where the players throw the boule with pieds tanque, or pe tanca, meaning feet stuck.
Fanny is one of the terms in Petanque that signifies one team beating the other without the other scoring a single point. The loser is obligated to kiss the bottom of a girl named Fanny. The woodcarvings and pictures of the girl became icons of the game and, in Provence, you will find many places where you can kiss Fanny if you lose. You’ll also be expected to pay for drinks later.
Safe or Not?
The sport itself is pretty docile, which doesn’t mean that passion can’t get the best of us sometimes. Franck Hourcade was 39 in 2008 and was simply examining how close is boule was to the jack when another player’s boule hit him in the head. While it was merely an accident, Hourcade passed away.
This is not the only case of the game being dangerous. There has been a rise of the so-called bouliganisme, or bouliganism – a combination of boule and hooliganism. Players are said to abuse each other mentally and physically in order to win, thereby destroying the sanctity of the sport and the sportsmanlike conduct that has, up until recently, been associated with the game.
Popular in France
Petanque is the tenth most popular sport in France and has even found its way into the school system. Americans may have their football and baseball in schools, but the French, it seems, will always have Petanque. The sport is so popular that the World Federation of the Sport of Boules has been lobbying for a while to get it recognized as an Olympic sport, and they’ve set their sights on 2024. Well, if e-sports are a thing, anything is possible.
For years, consuming alcohol was strictly forbidden to Petanque players, and for a good reason. You wouldn’t want someone barely able to stand on their feet to throw a heavy boule in an unknown direction, would you? However, the ban was seen as too strict by many, including Romolo Rizzoli, the president of the World Boules Federation, who proclaimed that it was ridiculous to be allowed to drive with a couple of drinks but not to play boules. The ban was lifted in 007, though there are still plenty of things Petanque players, like all athletes, can’t consume, including steroids and cocaine.
Popular in Asia
Believe it or not, despite the fact that it originated in France, Petanque is most popular in Asian countries like China and Thailand. Millions and millions of people in Asia play the game and it is only a matter of time before they take over the sport completely from the French.