Basque pelota

Basque pelota

Pelota in Spanish, pilota in Basque and Catalan, or pelote in French (from Latin "pila") is a name for a variety of court sports played with a ball using one's hand, a racket, a wooden bat ("Argentine paleta" and "pala corta"), or a basket propulsor, against a wall ("frontón" in Spanish, "pilotaleku" or "pilota plaza" in Basque, "frontó" in Catalan) or, more traditionally, with two teams face to face separated by a line on the ground or a net. Their roots can be traced to the Greek and other ancient cultures, but in Europe they all derive from real tennis (see "Jeu de Paume").

Today, Basque Pelota is widely played in several countries: in Spain and France, especially in the Basque Country and its neighbour areas. Also the sport is played in American countries like Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, Perú and Uruguay.

In Valencia, Valencian pilota is considered the national sport; it is also played in rural areas of Ireland (Gaelic handball), Belgium, North of Italy, Mexico, Argentina and in some States of the U.S. such as Florida.

Since its creation, the International Federation of Basque Pelota has standardised the different varieties into four modalities and fourteen disciplines, with fixed ball weights, rules and court sizes. The four modalities (30m wall, 36m wall, 56m wall and "trinquete") admit fourteen disciplines, depending the use of bare hand, leather ball, rubber ball, "paleta" ("pelota paleta), racket (frontennis) and "share". Two of the fourteen disciplines are played by both men and women (frontenis and rubber pelota in trinquete); the other twelve are played only by men.

There are, however, criticisms on this, since some might argue that the original traits of each particular modality would be lost.

Basque pilota

The antiquity of Basque ball-game is uncertain but it seems consolidated in the 19th century. The first official competitions were organized in the 1920s.

The History of the World Championships

Since 1952, The International Federation of Basque Pelota has organised the World Championships of Basque Pelota.
*1952 - Donostia (San Sebastián): France 8 gold medals, Spain 5, Argentina 3 and Mexico 1
*1955 - Montevideo: Spain 5 gold medals, Argentina 3, Mexico 2, France 1 and Uruguay 1
*1958 - Biarritz: Spain 5 gold medals, France 3, Argentina 3 and Mexico 3
*1962 - Iruñea (Pamplona): Argentina 4 gold medals, Spain 3, France 3 and Mexico 2
*1966 - Montevideo: France 4 gold medals, Argentina 3, Spain 3, Mexico 2 and Uruguay 1
*1970 - Donostia (San Sebastián): Spain 4 gold medals, France 3, Argentina 2, Mexico 2 and Uruguay 1
*1974 - Montevideo: Argentina 5 gold medals, France 4, Spain 2 and Mexico 1
*1978 - Biarritz: Spain 4 gold medals, Argentina 3, France 2, Mexico 2 and Uruguay 1
*1982 - Mexico City: France 6 gold medals, Argentina 4, Spain 1 and Mexico 1
*1986 - Vitoria-Gasteiz: France 5 gold medals, Spain 3, Mexico 2 and Argentina 2
*1990 - Cuba: Spain 6 gold medals, Mexico 3, France 2, Argentina 2
*1994 - Saint-Jean-de-Luz: France 5 gold medals, Spain 4, Mexico 3 and Argentina 2
*1998 - Mexico City: Spain 5 gold medals, Mexico 3, Argentina 3, France 2 and Cuba 1
*2002 - Iruñea (Pamplona): Spain 4 gold medals, France 4, Mexico 3, Argentina 2 and Cuba 1
*2006 - Mexico City: Mexico 6 gold medals, Spain 3, France 3 and Argentina 2

International projection

Basque pelota has been an official Olympic sport once, in the 1900 Paris Games, and a demonstration sport in 1924 (men), 1968 (men) and 1992 (men and women). See also Basque pelota at the 1900 Summer Olympics.

Although this sport is mostly played in Spain and France, there are also federations of Basque ball in Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Philippines, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, United States, Venezuela, Netherlands, India and Greece. Due to the origin of the game, there are many good players who are Basques, either natives or from the Basque diaspora. [ Pelota vasca (campeonatos)] at Auñamendi Encyclopedia]

Professional games

Professional games are open to betting on the results, as usual in most traditional Basque competitions. In the USA and Macau it is mainly this aspect of the competition that has given it some popularity. Besides the federations, there are professional competitions such as the League of Companies of Basque Pelota. The International Jai-Alai Players Association is a union defending the players of Jai Alai.

In 1994, the production company Asegarce started painting the courts green so that the ball would be more visible on TV. [ Asegarce] , section 21 May 1994.]


Playing area

Basque pelota is played in a two walled court (Basque: "frontoi" or "pilotaleku", French: "fronton", Spanish: "frontón"). As seen in the picture, there are also courts with one wall (although they are not recognized by the International Federation of basque Pelota).

These courts are often built in villages using a wall of a church or town-hall as frontal one, to which it has been attached another longer wall, with marks for the distance to the frontal one. The lateral wall is always at the left of the frontal one, while the right side is open and the playing area is simply delimited there by a line on the floor. The popularity of the game led to many Basque churches to put signs forbidding pelota games on their porches.

The back side of the court has typically a wall in closed courts (including professional ones) but it is often open in common rural open-air courts (and, in this case, also delimited by a line on the floor).

There are four standard types of courts:
*Very Short court (30 m long): used professionally only for "frontenis" and "paleta-rubber" variants.
*Short court (36 m long): used professionally for handball, "paleta"-leather and short bat variants.
*Long court (54 m long): used professionally for long bat, "remonte" and basket variants.
*Trinquet (28.5 m long): it has a somewhat different shape than the others: with an inclined roof all along the left wall. It allows the variants of handball, "paleta"-rubber, "paleta"-leather and "xare". It is used almost exclusively in the Northern Basque Country, but also in some places of Castile.


*Handball (Basque: "esku-pilota", Spanish: "pelota a mano"): played barehanded (or with minimal protections) and with a traditional ball made of wool around a hard core and covered with leather. The standard ball should weigh 92-95 grams. It is played in the short court either individually (one vs. one) or by couples (two vs. two). Traditionally and professionally it is reserved for men. Players can be distinguished by the swelling of their hitting hand.
*"Paleta"-rubber: played with a short and wide wooden bat, called "paleta" in both Spanish and Basque, and a rubber ball. It can be played by both men and women. This variety was invented in Argentina and is widely played there, where their male "pelotaris" used to dominate international competitions.
*"Paleta"-leather: played with a bat similar to the previous one but with a traditional leather ball. In principle, this game is reserved for men.
*Short bat: played with somewhat shorter but thicker and much less wide bat ("pala" in both Basque and Spanish). Uses a rubber ball. In principle, reserved for men.
*Long bat: played with a longer bat ("pala"), again thick and not much wide. Uses also a rubber ball but it is played in the long court. In principle, this game is reserved for men.
*Basket: this is the version known in the USA and Macau as Jai-Alai. In Basque it's called "saski-pilota" (literally: "basket-ball") and "cesta-punta" (literally: basket-edge) in Spanish. It uses a special glove that extends into a long pointed curved basket (hence the name), no more than 60cm long in straight line nor 110cm by curved line. The basket ("xistera" in Basque) was introduced by Gantchiqui Dithurbide from Saint-Pée, France in 1860,Libro de los récords Guinness, page 320, 1986 Spanish edition, Ediciones Maeva, ISBN 84-86478-00-6] and its long version by Melchior Curuchage, from Buenos Aires in 1888. The players use it to catch the rubber ball and propel it back against the main court. The Basque Government promotes it as "the fastest game on Earth", the record being 302 km/h (José Ramón Areitio at the Newport Jai Alai, Rhode Island, USA on 3 August 1979). Again, this game is only for men.
*"Remonte": a variant of the above. The basket-glove is shorter and it is allowed to retain the ball momentaneously. This game is for men only.
*"Xare": uses a primitive soft racket. "Sare" or "xare" means web in Basque. It is played only in the trinquet court. This game is traditionally reserved for men only.
*"Frontenis": a modern Mexican fusion between tennis and Basque ball. It uses tennis rackets in a short court, although the ball has a different surface to the tennis one. Men and women both play this game.

Renowned players

See also List of players of Basque pelota



* Julián Retegi


*The game skills have also been used occasionally in combat. [
] in Sare, Pyrenees Atlantiques, France, dedicated to the "pilotariak" who fought as grenade throwers in both World Wars.]
*Philip Leacock's 1956 film, "The Spanish Gardener", has a scene of pelota
*The Russel Rouse's film "Thunder in the Sun", famous for its anachronisms and anthropologic mistakes, shows Basque pioneers in the New World casting stones with their "xisteras" against Far West Indians.
*The Italian movie "Pari e dispari" from 1978 features a pelota match with "Bud Spencer".
*Lenny, Homer Simpson's friend, is shown in an episode to live in a pelota playground.
*"The Basque Ball" is a Spanish documentary film about Basque politics that uses pelota as a metaphor.
*Jørgen Leth made a documentary film about the game, entitled "Pelota".

ee also

* Frontenis
* Trinquete
* Xare
* Jai alai
* Basque rural sportsOther modalities
* Gaelic handball
* Valencian pilota
* Valencian frontó


External links

* [ International Federation of Basque Pelota]
* [ "The History of Basque Pelota in the Americas"] by Carmelo Urza
* [ Pelota vasca] in the Spanish-language Auñamendi Encyclopedia, with sections on [ the game] and [ history] .
* [ 1959's film "Thunder in the Sun" in IMDb]

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