Not even the BBC’s omniscient Sport section will give you an answer when you search ‘Tchoukball’. (“Did you mean: (ex-West Brom midfielder and Reginald D. Hunter doppelgänger) Somen Tchoyi? (Russian romantic composer) Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky?”) No, it’s not Aussie slang for ‘chicken’, nor is it a spherular shape coined by the Shadow Business Secretary.
A handball-dodgeball-korfball ménage à trois, tchoukball sees players running, jumping, throwing, diving and catching a small ball between two tilted trampolines. This particular compilation was in a local Czech gymnasium; the crowd wasn’t too sparse either, much to my surprise. So how have I never heard of it before?
In essence, the object of the game is to outscore the opposing team by throwing the ball at the trampoline so that it rebounds into the field of play, which is anywhere within the touchlines but for the D-shaped dauntingly-dubbed ‘forbidden zone’. A team scores a point when the ball touches the ground before being caught by an opponent, or if an opponent’s shot misses the frame.
Like handball, the sport involves arm strength and accuracy when launching the ball at a target. Like dodgeball, reaction time and agility are key to prevent ball-floor contact. Like korfball, the Tchoukball Charter disregards chromosomal differences and ‘arrogance in victory’, instead promoting ‘collective effort’ and ‘social exercise’.
Pioneered by Swiss biologist Hermann Brandt in the 1970s, tchoukball’s non-contact nature also aims to minimise the risk of serious injuries afflicting the world of sport. “The objective of human physical activities,” he opined, “is not to make champions, but make a contribution to building a harmonious society.”
This raises the question: isn’t that the objective of the Olympic Games? So why isn’t tchoukball an Olympic sport?
It turns out that the Olympics’ cold-shouldered younger sister event, the World Games, also takes place every four years, the latest of which recently took place in Cali, Colombia. Since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) limits the Olympics to 10,500 participants, many sports have been either relegated (tug of war, which was an Olympic sport between 1900 and 1920) or ignored (notably also squash and netball). However, the triathlon’s Olympic induction at Sydney 2000 gives hope to tchoukballers and other up-and-coming sportspeople, whose athleticism is arguably more deserving of the berth than current ‘sports’ in the competition (I’m looking at you, dressage jockeys.)
Perhaps Brandt would not have wanted tchoukball to become an Olympic sport. Its low-profile keeps its competitors humble and grounded, rather than taking victories and losses too seriously in search of the coveted gold. This would lead to the ‘exaggerated pride’ and ‘sectarian rivalry’, counterposing exactly what lies at the heart of the Charter. Instead, ‘there is no real individual champion, but rather a collective striving for perfection’.
That is not to say that people should not get involved. At a time when professionals are being punished for performance-enhancing drug (PED) offences, what sport needs now more than ever is a push for an honest, team-oriented spirit while excommunicating those who endanger its fair and competitive future.
I have long believed that sport is the most fitting of societal microcosms. Fulfilling Brandt’s legacy of giving more importance to mutual respect than coming first would make us all better people. Tchoukball is a jump in the right direction.