The most athletic ball sport you will ever see, upcoming in Southern Asia and originating from Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, Sepak Takraw. This is an indoor game using a small rattan ball with two to four players on each team. The spectacular bicycle kicks and other moves on show to strike the ball is breathtaking, the precision of each shot and move is key and the reflexes to keep the ball up without using your hands is at times mind-boggling.


The Asian sport is possibly the hardest ball sport which involves an opposition and is a combination of football, gymnastics and volleyball. ‘Sepak’ is the Malay word for kick and ‘Takraw’ the term used to identify the rattan woven ball. ‘Sepak Takraw’ literally means ‘kick ball’. The strange but extraordinary sport has grown so much it even has a governing body known as the ISTAF (International SepakTakraw Federation). The federations aim is to spread the sport all over the world and ultimately make it become an Olympic sport for the future.


The game starts with the bowler who throws the ball up to the sever who kicks it over the net to start the point. Each of the three positions (bowler, striker and server) have to stay in a small circle for each serve until the ball passes the net. The aim of the game is to reach 3 sets before the opposing team, however if you reach two sets before your opposition has won you win the game. Each set is the first team to twenty one. If it reaches twenty all, it is the first team to become two points clear who wins the set. Also if both teams are on two sets all, the last set is only to eleven. You are only allowed a maximum of three touches each time the ball comes onto your side. This means the third touch must go over the net. A player is also allowed, unlike volleyball, to take three touches themselves rather than pass to a teammate. You also can’t touch the net, use your hands/arms (even if accidental) or step outside the circles when serving. All these result in a point to the opposing team. 


The small rubber ball they use is made from rattan, a substance from palm trees in Southern Asia. When the skin of the palm is peeled away it leaves a flexible and sturdy substance – rattan. The substance is then weaved into a ball shape and is ready for use. Sepak Takraw is known to be invented in Thailand in the early 1740’s. Murals in Bangkok depict the Hindu god Hanuman playing it in a circled ring pitch with other monkeys. It is said that the game was played in a ring-like playing field before being adapted in Thailand to a rectangles pitch with more modern features such as the rattan ball. 


At the Sepak Takraw championship, 2019 China, the president of the federation dr. charouck arirachakaran said, ‘you will be fortunate enough to witness a world-class event, which is also the effort of the Asian SepakTakraw federation to raise our sport to the next level’.


The ambition for the sport is bright and clear and I am really looking forward to where the sport is heading and would love to see it globally across the world, being played at a competitive and high level.