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TRADITIONAL LOCAL SPORTSTRADITIONAL LOCAL SPORTS
SPORTSTRADITIONAL LOCAL SPORTS17 OCTOBER 2019

PELOTA VALENCIANA

Valencian ball game

The Pelota Valenciana (Valencian ball game) is a traditional game that became a popular sport in Alicante. The game dates back to the arrival of the Romans to the region, which in turn had inherited the ball game from the ancient Greeks. The Valencian ball game gained great popularity for a time, then it disappeared, and over the years it has become again a valued game in Alicante and Valencia.

It is divided into a direct and indirect playing mode, which in turn are subdivided into other modalities. There are also some balls varieties such as: bandana, rag, ramrod and tec balls. The equipment includes as well thimbles and gloves. The name "Valencian" pretends to distinguish the game from a well known Basque one, which is quite similar, since Alicante takes pride in this sport because it motivates the use of the Valencian, making it a cultural manifestation besides a sports one.

MODALITIES

Direct

Direct style modalities: teams face each other by sending the ball to the opposite end of the field. Versions:

  • Escala i corda: Definitely the queen mode, since it has the largest number of professional players. It takes place in a ball court, where a rope is added in the middle of the field at an approximate height of two meters. The game involves two teams of one, two or three players. It is an outdoor game, allowing only one bounce of the ball before returning it to the rival. The game’s objective is to return the ball over to the opponent's side of the rope, committing a foul if the ball does not reach the other field, if it does so below the rope or if it hits on one of the opponent's body parts other than the hand. For closing a game, the scores are similar to the tennis punctuation: 15, 30, val and joc.

  • Galotxa: it is similar to the previous game, the difference being that it takes place in a natural or artificial setting, adapting the rules to the court type, but keeping the same spirit.

  • Llargues: this mode is specifically played in the open, on the street, and only allows for one bounce of the ball. It is played between teams of three, four or five members, also called “pelotaris”. To achieve a point you have to make the ball bounce past a line known as ‘la falta’ (located about thirty or forty meters of the kick) or you should send the ball past a second line known as the 'quinze' (fifteen) located at a distance of approximately 70 m away.

  • Raspall: This modality, which has been played professionally, is a rival of "escala i corda", as it is more popular, although it does not have many followers. It is played on the street or in a ball court and it owes its name to the fact that the ballplayer can scrape the ground with one hand to return the ball, including two specific new moves: ‘raspar’ (hit the ball close to the ground so it rolls) and ‘enganxar ’ (hit the ball close to the ground so it raises). In this mode, the ball is rolling on the floor frequently. To get a point one is supposed to send the ball past the line while the opponent is behind it or touch the bottom of the ball court. It is the hardest mode, physically speaking.

  • Galotxetes This mode is played on a tiny pitch ("galotxeta")between one or two players per team. It takes place in the open air, achieving points each time the ball is inserted into one of the opponent's crates (holes), or fails if the ball doesn’t pass the rope.

  • International game: version played in Europe and worldwide similar to the llargues mode but played differently in each country.

Indirect 

Indirect style modalities: the two teams face each other by throwing the ball against an element (wall), called ‘frontón’. After the ball bounces back it is the opposing team's turn to throw. Versions:

  • Frontón: this mode differs in court dimensions and characteristics of the ball. Each player hits the ball alternately. The ball has to hit the front wall above a line situated at a height of half meter (two feet) and bounce back within the limits set by the court.

  • Frares frontón: this mode has similar rules to the previous one but the distinction is that it takes place in a slightly different setting with smaller dimensions and a bevel (known as ‘frare’) on each lateral corner of the "frontón", which give the ball strange effects when impacting on them.

The most widespread forms of the game are the escala i corda along with the raspall versions, both professionally played.   Llargues is the most popular modality in the province of Alicante. The frontón game is gaining popularity due to the large number of facilities available.

MATERIAL

Ball types:

Pelota badana (badana ball): this ball has a calfskin cover and an ‘iborra’ filling. It is the favorite ball of young people to play in the street. It has a maximum weight of 39 g and a diameter of 38 mm.

Pelota de trapo (rag ball): also filled with ‘iborra’ in the center, this ball is coated by cloth strips. Used in the galotxetes mode, it has a weight of 50 to 96 g and a diameter of 6 or 7 cm.

Pelota de vaqueta (cow leather ball): consists of eight triangles of ox eggs skin sewn together and stuffed with ’iborra’ to achieve the official weight which is between 40 and 42 g with a 42 mm diameter.

Such balls are manufactured using traditional methods and are therefore much appreciated, being highly priced, at around 30 euros and up. Used in the escala i corda, raspall and galotxetes mode.

Tec ball (pelota tec): consists of a wood core coated with ‘iborra’ and lined with goat skin. Used in the Valencian frontón mode, it weighs between 36 and 50 g with a size of 40 to 50 mm in diameter.

Gloves

Made of sheepskin, they are used to protect hands when hitting the ball and do not normally cover the fingers. They consist of a triangle to cover the palm of the hand with an attachment to the knuckles. A pair of linked strings is used to tie the gloves and fasten them to the hand. Due to its lightness it does not offer enough protection so cards, steel plates or sponges are usually added to them with tape that keeps them together and also prevents spoilage from sweat. Generally, this protection is also used on fingers.

Thimbles

Thimbles (‘didals’ in Valencian) are used for the raspall version. They are made of pork intestine or skin. Normally, a little cotton is added to adjust the shape of the thimble to the finger. They can also be done manually with tape and paper.

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