Alasdair Baverstock
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Ancient Aztec ball game in danger of dying out

Morelia, Mexico Sports September 4 @ 8:27pm

One of the oldest continuously-played sports in the world, Ulama first became known to the Spanish conquistadors for its use of a rubber ball, something never previously known to Europeans.
Its roots extend at least as far back as 2000BC, and is spectacular to watch.
Appearing rather like volleyball, players wear ceremonial belts in order to send the bouncing ball ricocheting back and forth using only their hips to strike it.
The game is very culturally significant, and was in danger of dying out shortly after the arrival of the Spanish, who attempted to suppress it due to its religious and ritual aspects. Yet the game continued in remote indigenous areas, such as Veracruz and Sinaloa, where the conquistadors were less pervasive.
Today the game is also in trouble. With few of the younger generation interested in the country’s semi-pro league, only around 800 players across all of Mexico remain, and campaigners are fighting to keep it alive for the sake of Mexico’s cultural history.
I’ll go to cover a match, speak with the players and campaigners about its cultural significance, as well as have them tell me how one becomes a semi-pro Ulama player.
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