French fear Asia's whole new boules game

5th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 5, 2007 (AFP) - France celebrates the centenary of petanque this year but the party is being gatecrashed by a new wave of Asian challengers.

PARIS, June 5, 2007 (AFP) - France celebrates the centenary of petanque this year but the party is being gatecrashed by a new wave of Asian challengers.

Regarded by most as a pedestrian game played in southern France by old men in berets, fuelled by potent glasses of pastis, the sport is now becoming increasingly globalised.

The annual world championships will be held this year in Thailand and the French, keen to see their sport win Olympic recognition, are actively promoting the game internationally.

Claude Charbonnier, of the French Federation of Petanque, recently led a mission to Taiwan where they introduced the sport in universities and helped to select and train a national team. 

"They are eager to learn and accept advice much more readily than Europeans. It's because of this that they are becoming so good so quickly," he said.

The game has become popular in Thailand where it was promoted by Princess Srinagarindra who is said to have played petanque almost daily. Petanque is now an official military sport in the country.

France's reigning world champion Michel Loy said: "Thai players are not far behind the French. It's because they are mainly in the military, or they are policemen. They are very disciplined and train very hard."

Thailand has already made its mark at the world championships.

In 2005, they reached the semi-finals for the first time and added two gold medals last year.

Buoyed by such a breakthrough, the president of the Petanque Association of Thailand boasted that "Thai petanque athletes are the world's best".

This year the French will also face pressure from other Asian countries such as Cambodia and Taiwan.

Petanque, whose name comes from the French 'pieds tanques' or 'stuck feet' was invented in the southern French town of La Ciotat one hundred years ago.

Its creator, Jules Le Noir, suffered from arthritis who was unable to play the energetic game of boules. To get over the problem, one of the basic rules of petanque is that one must play from a standing position, with feet together.

Despite the global challenge, France still boasts a solid foundation of petanque players with over half a million registered players.

But Loy believes their Asian counterparts will eventualy surpass them.

"One day they're going to beat us. I just hope it's not this year on their own turf when I'm playing," he said.
 

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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