The “Big 3” for U.S. sports fans are football, basketball and baseball. The world’s favorite sport, called football by everybody except Americans, is soccer. But many more sports are being played out there, seemingly either content with their status or competing for their turn in the spotlight. Check out this list of sports you might never have heard of.
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Doesn’t a game of golf played with a soccer ball sound ideal? No club needed. Players must put power and accuracy behind each kick to help the ball reach its far-away and appropriately re-sized hole. Over 22 countries are members of the Federation For International Footgolf (FIFG).
And, don’t forget disc golf (a.k.a. Frisbee Golf or “frolf”), which uses tall baskets as “holes.”
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Developed in the 1940s by college basketball coach Charles A. “Rip” Engle, angleball is a light contact sport that emphasizes accuracy. Large balls sit atop two tall posts on either end, and players try to knock off the opposing team’s ball.
It can be described as a mixture of basketball and football (soccer or American), although players can pass (or roll) the ball with their hands, and there is no goalie. If a defender touches a player on offense, the player with the ball must stop and pass the ball within three seconds. If a player hits the pole instead of the ball, the shooting team is “polarized,” and the teams switch possession.
3. Bicycle Soccer
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The name may cause you to think of a “bicycle kick” in a soccer match, but “cycle ball” or “radball” is literally soccer played on fixed-gear bicycles. Dating back to the late 19th century, it was invented by a German-American named Nicholas Kaufmann. It grew to be fairly popular throughout Europe, especially Germany, where, to this day, multiple types of indoor cycling are big. The first official world championships were held around 1930, and the sport eventually picked up speed throughout Japan, where it remains relatively common.
With rules pretty similar to soccer, bicycle soccer games consist of two players per team, but they are only allowed to touch the ball with their hands to block shots on goal. Neither player may touch the ball with his or her feet, only their bicycle wheels, and feet are not allowed to touch the ground. Cycle ball is played on a basketball court, with a ball much smaller than a soccer ball. The size of the goal resembles that of lacrosse. Games last only 14 minutes (two 7-minute halves).
4. Bicycle Polo
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Teams engage in the bike version of traditional polo, using mallets typically made out of stripped-down ski poles and nylon piping for the mallet head. The bikes are designed like track-style bicycles, but are fabricated with mountain bike tubing and welds to withstand collisions (of which there are many). In the U.S., bike polo is growing steadily out of obscurity and into the mainstream. Helmets are required in most major tournaments around the world.
RELATED: 7 Things You Don’t Know about Hardcourt Bike Polo
5. Unicycle Basketball
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See the trend here? Just like it sounds, players dribble, pass and shoot a regulation basketball while riding a unicycle. It’s played in select leagues across the U.S. and in Europe, but the Puerto Rico All-Stars are pretty much the best in the biz. Need we really say more?—except there’s also unicycle handball and (non-contact) unicycle hockey.
6. Underwater Rugby
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Lose the wheels and hit the swimming pool. Dive into the global waters of underwater rugby. As if water polo were not difficult enough, rugby swimmers use a weighted ball, heavier than the water itself, making for mostly short passes. The ball must not leave the water; however, players are allowed to wear flippers.
Instead of crossing an end line, the aim is to get the ball into a tiny little goal. The goals are metal cage baskets placed at the bottom of the pool. And wouldn’t you know it? Anything goes. Apparently you’re even allowed to sit on the goal to keep your opponents from scoring.
7. Calcio Fiorentino
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This early form of soccer, similar to a more brutal form of rugby, dates back to 16th-century Italy, and is played competitively to this day. Teams consist of 27 players (no substitutions), who try to get the ball into the other team’s goal (end zone) and defend their own by any means necessary. Check out the above video. You’ll see players boxing, wrestling, sitting on one another, and basically trying to kill their opponents with their bare hands. The games last 50 minutes, and the team with the most points wins a cow.
8. Quidditch (for us muggles)
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You are probably at least slightly familiar with the whimsical sport invented by author J.K. Rowling for her Harry Potter series. You might not, however, have been lucky enough to witness a real live quidditch match, co-ed, played all over the world, and sad to say, on the ground. (Non-magical) brooms are indeed required to be positioned between the legs (while running). If you get “knocked out” (i.e., fall off your broomstick), you must run and touch one of your team’s three hoops to keep playing.
Different colored headbands denote your position—chaser, keeper, beater or seeker. A slightly deflated volleyball serves as the quaffle, and slightly deflated dogeballs are the bludgers. The snitch is a tennis ball hanging inside a long sock attached to the shorts of a neutral participant, dressed in yellow.
9. Life-Size Foosball
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Recently, in a small town in Minnesota, a man named Mark Cacka built a “table” for his children. However, we’re willing to bet he’s not the first to try out a makeshift foosball field in human proportions.
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The name of this capture-the-flag game from Japan roughly translates to “pole bring down,” and it is the sport at the National Defense Academy of Japan. Each team of 150 splits into 75 defensive and 75 offensive players. With no shoes allowed, players fight for control of their team’s respective pole.
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The Loopyball is a trademarked product from Germany. It’s a giant clear plastic bubble ball that you place over the top of your body, then run or roll around as you please. Since your legs are the only thing not inside the Loopyball, why not play soccer ?
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Of Dutch origin, Fierljeppen is a hybrid of pole vaulting, long jumping and a body of water. Since much of the Netherlands is below sea-level, fierljeppen was first created as a way to cross over its many canals and waterways. Players sprint toward a long pole sitting in water, mount it and proceed to climb to the top while balancing to remain vertical. Once they reach a sufficient height, they hold onto the pole and vault to the other shore. Scores are determined by distance.
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This ancient Indian sport requires tremendous athleticism—flexibility, strength and balance. Mallakhamba is derived from “malla,” a wrestler, and “khamba,” a pole. It’s essentially gymnastics on an 8-foot-6-inch-long wooden pole that tapers toward the top. Piece of cake!
Weird fact. In 1936, Adolph Hitler was thrilled after witnessing a demonstration for the International Olympic Committee, and gave each athlete an honorary Olympic metal.
However, the sport has remained insular, contained mostly in the region around Mumbai. Its motions take root from Hindu mythology and other ancient fighting traditions. Throughout the formation of the official Mallakhamb Federation of India, during which standards and rules were set, the organization ultimately drew from the moves, routines and customs (e.g., a time limit) of traditional Western gymnastics.
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