Gateball Open de Beaune 1st ­- 3rd July 2016

The second 2016 event in the European Gateball League calendar was held in Beaune, Burgundy, over the first weekend in July. A multicultural contingent included European League players from France, Switzerland, Belgium and Germany, supplemented by players from Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Norway and Australia.

It was a wonderful weekend, hosted by Gateball Bourgogne Franche Compte, a club new to the game of Gateball. The most experienced local players had only played for 5 months, others for a few weeks and some only a few days before the event. Undaunted, the locals, under the leadership of Laurent Gueraud and Anne Sirot, organised an event which showcased their region and demonstrated that they will be a future force in Gateball.

Playing and practice was interspersed with a great range of local activities,including a visit to the site of Beaune’s hospice, a Middle Ages Medicare facility that provided a service for the local population. Local player Anne took us all to her family vineyard for wine tasting and supper on the first night. The random draw for the competition was conducted at the cellar door, while we sampled Anne and Pierre Sirot’s wines.

Although the Burgundians wore maroon uniforms similar to Queensland colours, we were thankful that the similarity did not extend to Queensland starting times. At a civilised hour the following morning, play in the doubles began and games in three pools of four teams were completed that day. The singles were played in a knockout format, completed on the second day.

On Saturday evening participants enjoyed a meal of local delights at a restaurant in a nearby village. The first course pate, the Boeuf Bourguignon to die for, the dessert and creamy local cheeses were all washed down with local wines. The evening ended shortly before midnight.

On the second day, early stage games were completed and final series games took place. In the singles event Danny Davids, a Swiss/Belgian player, fought hard before John, playing a patient game, pulled ahead. Australian players John and Penny Park played John Swabey and Andre Bozanovic from the Eifel. The latter pair demonstrated a developing understanding of the game, forcing the Australian pair to work hard for their eventual win.

For players who have not been playing for very long, the Europeans played really well. Remembering the positions of balls in order to spark into attacking positions, resisting the temptation to spark through gates, placing balls together, being patient in setting up and using gates and touches are all aspects of Gateball where European players are developing their understanding of game strategy.

The site for the event was a soccer stadium outside Beaune. The surface was even although once balls were sparked, the well watered surface was bunkered and balls tended to jump. Slides were difficult to play.

Keiichi Imagawa is well known to many Australians for his role in supporting the development of the game Down Under. His ‘retirement’ project has been to establish Gateball in Europe.  His charm and enthusiasm made a great impact on his audience. New players benefited from his patient coaching prior to and during the tournament. He has worked very successfully with the European Gateball League triumvirate: John Swabey of Germany, Bernard Thys of Belgium and Dave Underhill of Switzerland.

With limited numbers playing at this stage, the European Gateball League has proposed a round of competitions playing singles and doubles at different places in Europe. The next competition in a month or so is to take place in Geneva at CERN. A round of similar events is planned for future years and Gateballers from Australia are encouraged to check out the list of these open events on the Gateball League’s website. A link is to be found on Gateball Australia’s website under Contacts –  Links. The European organisers have told us they will keep us informed of dates of events in future years.

An exciting element of the French situation is the government support they receive. The French Goverment makes a deliberate effort to keep its rural communities healthy. Local organisations are part of the Federation Nationale Sport en Mileu Rural . The National President, Brigitte Linder, accompanied by the Vice President, attended the event and is obviously excited about the potential of the game and is prepared to lend support to its development in France.

Vive la France!

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Canberra Visitors in Hong Kong

Dave Roberts from Canberra recently visited Hong Kong and was keen to have a taste of gateball at a local club. Here’s his story.

HK VisitWe took the MTR from Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station to Kwai Fung in the New territories. Samuel Fung (middle red check shirt) and his friend (far left blue sweater) met us at the MTR. Then we went by bus to the activities park where there are two gateball courts which are also used for junior soccer. The grass is greener and longer than Canberra so the court was slower and more bumpy.

There are more than 1000 gateball players with 11 courts around HK but then there are 7 million in Hong Kong.

Sam and the guy on the far right in a red cap are both very good players. The club president is in the centre of the photo.  More people turned up after this photo was taken.  I’m afraid to say I embarrassed the Canberra gateball standings in 3 games in HK. There were a couple of very good players. I think one of them managed to spark all the opponent’s balls off during his turn.

Anyway it was fun. The rules are slightly different as they can keep going round the hoops.** Also some of them have mallets which are only legal in China – 1 end is flat vertical as normal but the other end is sloped back which puts back spin on the ball and you can hit a ball and yours will stop or reverse.

I played three games before Josie and I had to leave and return to the hotel to go to a symphony concert. Josie plays GC croquet but has never tried Gateball so she sat out and talked to some interesting people.

It was great fun and everyone was very friendly.

Dave Roberts
Canberra

** Comment from Maggi. These different rules must explain why the timers currently being sold in Australia count up to 25 for each ball!

Overseas News

Venue for 2018 WGU championships announcedWGU

It has just been announced that São Paolo will host the 2018 WGU championships. A date in September or November will be chosen.

If current selection policy is to be continued this will mean that the National Gateball Championships to be held in EDSACC, Bateau Bay, NSW, will be where the selection will take place.

Gateball Australia will review the current process later this year. Submissions will be welcomed from anyone interested.

Europe tries some creative solutions

Gateball league LogoHaving promoted  Gateball Come and Try Sessions for a number of years in Belgium, France, Germany Switzerland and the UK, a European brains trust of David Underhill, Bernard Thys and John Swabey have decided to promote a Gateball League.

The difficult challenge of finding two teams with at least five players in each team has led the European team to organise a series of events in a Gateball League. Each tournament in the series will follow the same format which will run over three days. The first day will largely be training and explanations which will allow beginners to start playing. On the following two days, usually over a weekend, doubles and singles will be played. A detailed description of the league format is described here. 

Events for 2016 have already been planned at Einschmidt in Germany from the 22nd to 24th April and at Beaune in France from the 1st to the 3rd July. This link provides further information.

The events are open to visitors from other parts of the world.

The Europeans have structured their events like this for a number of reasons. They hope that it enables them to develop a track record as organisers of gateball events which will establish their credentials with prospective sponsors. They plan that this is a step towards gateball teams events in Europe and would like other countries other countries to adopt their format.

Gateball in Tokyo area

Jim and Barbara Northcott, Satoshi and Keiichi

Jim and Barbara Northcott, Satoshi and Keiichi

Jim uses the huge brush to smooth over the surface at the end of the day's games.

Jim uses the huge brush to smooth over the surface at the end of the day’s games.

Before Christmas 2015 we were invited to play Gateball on one public holiday (Emperor’s Birthday) at Higashi Urawa north of Tokyo. Our host was a young, well known and an expert player/ tactician of Gateball -Satoshi Kamijo. The former International Director of WGU, Keiichi Imagawa, came along with us as well. The competition was for doubles, triples and teams – depending on what the players could organise. So a doubles team could play a game against a triples team or a team of 5 players, The entry was approximately $15 a player.

High School players from Tochigii Prefecture who arrived by school bus

High School players from Tochigii Prefecture who arrived by school bus

Some of the players from Adachi Prefecture

Some of the players from Adachi Prefecture

The New Year Celebration at a Sukiyaki restaurant

The New Year Celebration at a Sukiyaki restaurant

We played as a Triples and then as a team of four in an interesting arrangement. When playing like that, we each have a set number and then the number 9 or 10 is rotated through the group. So player 1 plays ball 2 and ball 10 and in the next round player 2 plays ball 4 and ball 10. Next round player 3 plays ball 6 and ball 10 etc.
In this competition the games are self refereed but are all started and finished with a hooter. Six courts were in use and it was a relaxed atmosphere off the court but demanding on the court. Altogether 6 games were played over the 6 hours of the day. We met a group of High School students who had travelled by school bus from Tochigii Prefecture.
At the end of the day results were announced and we looked at the prizes which were very practical items like bottles of sauce, oil, coffee, or sachets of detergent, shampoo or packets of biscuits or other delicacies. The prizes were distributed with the losers getting first pick off the table and the winners have final choice. It was a fabulous day of Gateball. Thank you Satoshi for inviting us.

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Two weeks later we visited our friends at Adachi Prefecture. We are regular visitors to this gateball hub and are always made so welcome. With fine but cold weather were able to play regular team games all day on the courts that are provided by the region. Later we had a celebratory meal of sukiyaki. Again, Keiichi Imagawa came along and later in the week played in a 20 team competition for that prefecture. He is a very sincere friend and a great promoter of Gateball around the world.

Gateball TV

The Japanese Gateball Union has launched Gateball TV http://gateball.tv/. Gateball TV is a new portal for viewing gateball matches online.

Gateball TV provides a step-up in the number of matches available to view online and is a useful resource for comparing tactics, techniques and overseas playing conditions. Video from all 119 matches in the featured competition are currently available. It is expected the site will continue to be updated for future competitions, The website is in Japanese but is easy to navigate as outlined below.

Guide to Gateball TV

Home page
The home page includes (1) a link to videos of the 119 tournament matches and (2) a summary video of the featured tournament.

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Competition matches
After clicking on the link to the tournament matches users can navigate through and view individual games. To watch a match click on the button (D) below the score. Matches are divided into first round blocks (A), second round blocks (B) and the knockout rounds (C) which determined the tournament winner.

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Of interest to Australian readers will be that more Japanese players are transitioning to the between the legs, croquet style, which was first introduced to gateball by Australian players and has been adopted with great success by other countries including the current world champions from China.