If you’re a sports fan like me, chances are you can enjoy just about any sporting event.
Hell, one of my favourite sporting memories from China (aside from playing cricket in China), was going along to the Asian Youth Games to cheer on Timor Leste in their demolition of Qatar in the football.
Whatever the stakes, there’s something genuinely enjoyable about the carnival atmosphere of a sporting event.
There is no shortage of guides out there for the must see sporting events such as the World Cup, the Super Bowl, and one of the tennis majors, so I thought I’d instead highlight some of the lesser-known and more unusual sporting events that are worth a look.
Why You Should Attend Unusual Sporting Events
Why would anybody attend a virtually unknown sporting event?
If it’s worth watching, surely, it’s already on the global radar. I mean, there’s a reason nobody cares about the Aussie Rules International Cup. It’s probably awful.
But isn’t there something enjoyable about the spectacle of something that is almost farce?
Or maybe you find the passion of these amateurs and semi-professionals heart-warming and inspiring.
Some of the below draw their appeal from being comedic in their weirdness, while others are a genuine showcasing of something far more important and beautiful – a desire for recognition as a sport and, in one notable case, a desire to be recognised as a nation.
ConIFA World Cup
We’re all familiar with the FIFA World Cup and most football fans might even be aware of the various regional tournaments such as the Asian Nations Cup, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and the African Cup of Nations.
What you might not be aware of is the ConIFA World Cup (formerly the VIVA World Cup), a football tournament for those nations or ethnic groups that might not have representation on football’s biggest stage.
Featuring national teams such as South Ossetia, Quebec, Tibet, Zanzibar, and Iraqi Kurdistan, this tournament is played every two years and is open to any nation or nation of peoples who wishes to participate. The 2014 tournament, held in Sweden’s Sapmi region, was won by the French region of Nice.
While it may not have the glitz and glamour of football’s grand event, there’s something inspiring about these would-be nations showcasing their national pride – even if the nation they’re proud of is not recognised by the global community.
How to Attend: The 2016 ConIFA World Cup is being held in Abkhazia region of Georgia from the 28th of May until the 6th of June.
The Rugby League World Cup
The most conventional of the events on this list, rugby league’s World Cup actually predates the more well known Rugby World Cup by more than thirty years, having existed in various formats since 1954.
Not sure on the differences between Rugby League and Rugby Union? Don’t worry, I’ve got your back:
The current format is more in line with traditional World Cups, with qualification spanning multiple continents and the final tournament split into four groups who fight to get into the knock-out stages.
While Australia has enjoyed near total domination in the modern era, New Zealand broke the land downunder’s six tournament streak by winning in 2008, and will fancy their chances during the upcoming 2017 World Cup to be hosted in Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea.
The 2017 tournament will be contested by rugby league powerhouses such as Australia, England, and New Zealand, as well as rising teams such as Fiji, Samoa, and Scotland. Want a true underdog to get behind? Jump on the USA Tomahawks or the Lebanon Cedars now!
How to Attend: The 2017 Rugby League World Cup will be held across Australia and New Zealand, with several games to also be played in Papua New Guinea – the only country on earth to recognise rugby league as its national sport.
The only non World Cup event I’ve included on this list, Bossaball is a relatively new sport claiming to be a combination of volleyball, football, gymnastics, and the Brazilian dance-martial art of capoeira. Sounds like an intriguing combination!
Originating in Spain from the twisted mind of a Belgian, Bossaball is played on an inflatable court with built-in trampolines for maximum air when hitting, spiking, or bicycle kicking the ball.
While it has a number of rule similarities to volleyball, the introduction of trampolines and inflatables makes it a far more aerially spectacular show. In addition to this, the referee is part umpire and part DJ, ensuring that all games are accompanied by a suitably upbeat musical score.
How to Attend: Bossaball’s most recent world championships were held in Spain in 2015, but my frantic Googling has yet to turn up the venue for their next championships. That being said, Bossaball has leagues in countries such as Brazil, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, and more.
Roller Derby World Cup
Different from the other sports on this list by being played predominantly by women, roller derby is a high adrenaline contact sport with a bit of theatrical flair mixed in.
Played under witty pseudonyms such as Lady Shatterly and Patti Smithereens, the sport has seen a huge resurgence in recent years as girls (as well as boys) from around the world have taken to strapping on their skates and beating the ever loving hell out of one another. With an alternative appeal that draws people from all walks of life, it’s an inclusive and fun sport both as a player and a spectator.
How to Attend: Roller derby leagues exist all over the world, and even the small city next to mine has a league that friends of mine play in. If you’re looking to see the best of the best compete, a Roller Derby World Cup is held every three years. The last two have taken place in North America, with the third tentatively planned for 2017. Alas, there’s no location for this yet.
IQA Quidditch World Cup
Fans of Harry Potter will already be familiar with this sport played on flying broomsticks in pursuit of a winged ball, but some may be surprised to know that the sport has a growing player base around the world.
Played with mundane broom-sticks twixt the legs and using more conventional balls, the game still very much resembles the game that wizards from the Harry Potter universe love so much.
Especially popular on university campuses, Quidditch has a reputation for being one of world sport’s most inclusive codes, with an especially open and accepting view towards people who do not necessarily identify as the sex they were born. While the game itself may seem a bit silly, there’s nothing silly about its spirit of inclusion for all.
How to Attend: University campuses across the world have teams that often compete in leagues and tournament events. In Australia, annual events are held in Melbourne and Newcastle, with teams from all around Australia participating.
What is the most unusual sporting event you’ve been to? Do any of the above tickle your fancy?
The preceding post was sponsored by Unibet. All thoughts and opinions are my own.