Belize, which is one of the five countries of Mundo Maya, has been invited by the Association of Games and Indigenous Sports and Traditions of Yucatan to participate in the first bi annual Pok Ta Pok Tournament to be played in Chichen Itza, Merida, this coming weekend. A team from Orange Walk has since been preparing and is ready to represent Belize at this Pok Ta Pok Tournament, the first of its kind. Emanuel Pech Reports.
Emanuel Pech – Reporter: Before football, before volleyball, before baseball and before basketball, one ballgame dominated this part of the western hemisphere. Pok Ta Pok, a Maya ballgame, is a sport unlike any other that is drenched in religious significance. Up to date, court yards of the game can still be found at Mayan sites across the Mesoamerican region including Belize. But over time, the game faded into obscurity and is now only practiced by cultural performers in a few countries. Now in 2015, in an attempt to revive the sport, the Association of Games and Indigenous Sports and Traditions of Yucatan is organizing the first bi-annual Pok Ta Pok World Cup and Belize is taking part. Felicita Cantun, a prominent Maya culture advocate hailing from the village of Yo Creek in Orange Walk , is the organizer for the Belizean Pok Ta Pok team.
Felicita Cantun- Local Organizer: I got a call from the organizers in Merida. They asked me about this Pok Ta Pok thing. So I said no, we don’t have this kind of game in Belize. So they told me about this tournament that will be world tournament. And I said world? I was surprised, and then I recalled that yes it’s world because it involves the countries in the Munda Maya World.
Emanuel Pech: The small Pok Ta Pok team from Yo Creek will be up against teams from two other Munda Maya countries: Mexico and Guatemala.
Felicita Cantun: Belize was a zero concerning Pok Ta Pok. That was what I explained to the organizers in Yucatan, and they said do not worry. We are coming, you just get the boys organized and we are coming to teach you so that was what they did. Four trainers came from Merida and they trained our boys. They left all the rules and regulations concerning this game and since as I said Mr Novelo is very well acquainted with sports so his the one who is coaching the Belizean boys now.
Emanuel Pech: Ek’ Báalam, Black Jaguars, is the adopted name for the Belizean Pok Ta Pok team, which consists of 8 players all from the village of Yo Creek. 19 year old Franz Novelo plays defence in the team.
Franz Novelo: How I came in first contact with the sport was that someone invited me to come and participate with the team and then I saw it as an opportunity for me to be able to revive the Mayan Culture and something that’s really interesting for the country of Belize to be participating in something like this. It’s really a great experience for me to be able to have more exposure to a different sport because it’s something that’s really great to be participating in something like this.
Emanuel Pech: Although a sports enthusiast, Novelo says this game is much more challenging than any other sport he has played before.
Franz Novelo: It has to be more with physical movement, so what you do is you use your hip to be able to play with the ball so that you can hit it different ways. You can hit it like as it’s jumping, you need to be able to hit it so it goes to the top. And also like when it goes down, you need to go to the ground and hit it. So those are some of the ways in which we hit the ball, it’s different from other sports.
Jose M. Esquivel: We use a dot to represent one point and lines to represent five points. If a player makes a fault of 3 points for example, his team is deducted 3 points and the opponents team is given the 3 points. So if a team has a line but one of its teammates commits a foul by sitting on the ball, that carries a three point penalty, that line then turns into two points and the opposing team, if they had 2 points, their two dots are erased and a line is put in place. Simple as that. Each game of the tournament will have two rounds of 10 minutes each, with a 5 minute break. But I want to invite you to come and see this tournament because it will be very emotional. 10 minutes, but ten intense minutes of game play, full of excitement and passion and sport.
Emanuel Pech: The Belizean delegation departs on Friday and arrives at Chichén Itza, Merida, where on Saturday Septebember 19th at 5 pm local time, the tournament will commence. Reporting for Plus News Emanuel Pech.