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!