Saturday, July 10, 2010
Basque pelota is the name for a variety of court sports played with a ball using one's hand, a racket, a wooden bat or a basket, against a wall (frontón in Spanish, pilotaleku or pilota plaza in Basque) or, more traditionally, with two teams face to face separated by a line on the ground or a net.
The origin of this sport is tied to the decline of the ancient jeu de paume (jeu de paume au gant), ca. 1700.
While the game evolved to the modern jeu de paume (with racquet, called real tennis in England) and eventually to tennis, rural alpine and pyreneean communities kept the tradition.
In the basque country the "pasaka" and "laxoa", local versions of the paume evolved to the peculiar style of the pilota: instead of playing face to face, with a net in the midfield, the basques began to fling the ball against a wall.
According the basque pilota historian Chipitey Etcheto, the first recorded matchs took place in napoleonic times; it is believed that the game was close to currently rare specialty of "rebot".
The mid-19th century saw the explosion of the "pelota craze".
The player "Gantxiki" is considered the original "father" of the chistera, the basket-shaped racquet which can propel the ball at incredible speeds, introduced around 1850.
The top champions of the end of the 19th century, like "Chiquito de Cambo" were immensely popular and the best paid sportsmen of their time.
The first official competitions were organized in the 1920s, and led to the world championship in the 50's.