Cultural Interactions in Lao Through Sport
The Lao sport of kataw, better known in Southeast Asia as sepak takraw, is a native sport throughout the region. It is played similar to volleyball except players are only allowed to use their feet, knees, chest or head to volley the ball over the net. Each team, also known as a regus, consists of four players, three of which are on the playing field at one time.
The name of the sport differs between the main participating countries in Asian tournaments: Malaysia (sepak), Laos, Thailand (takraw), Myanmar (chinlone) and the Philippines (sipa). The most successful teams come from Thailand and Malaysia; therefore the sport’s official name combines the Malay word sepak (to kick) with the Thai word takraw (woven rattan ball). The game hacky sack, popular in the USA in the 1990s, uses foot and volley skills similar to sepak takraw.
This Asian game of kickball can be considered the national sport of Laos with local teams performing better and better each year. The Lao women’s team won the Gold Medal in the 4th Asian Beach Games and the Silver Medal in the 17th Asian Games in 2014.
The game can be played pretty much everywhere, in public areas, in parks or even inside, but mostly on dirt or gravel. So when visiting Laos, your travelers will often encounter people playing kataw at any time of the day. If it is later in the day and the teams are playing for fun, some snacks and Beer Lao are usually involved as well.
Visitors are welcome to join a game of kataw, but consider the following rules: not any part of the player’s body are allowed to touch the net and each side is not allowed to play the ball more than three times in succession. And most important of all, enjoy yourself while you earn the respect of locals during this fun cultural interaction.
For more information about how to include sports and games in a trip to Laos or Southeast Asia, please contact to [email protected]
Photo by Sepak Takraw.