Nearly all of humanity today plays some kind of organized sports, and essentially every culture’s citizens throughout history have enjoyed some form of communal sporting activity. Cultures such as the Scottish may even have produced full-on original sports. And in the Hebrides, as in Scotland, folks are knowing for hosting some great events full of fun and informal sports betting and partying.
If you’re into sports and visiting the Hebrides, check out games like:
• Soccer football. Naturally, football is played in the Hebrides – Is there any nation where it isn’t? Professional Clubs play in either the Uist & Barra Football League or the Lewis & Harris FL. On the international level, the Hebrides’ best players make up Team Western Isles. The “national” team plays in regional and invitational tournaments only, however, as they play without official recognition of FIFA or UEFA.
Except in America, they prefer to use the terminology "Football" to describe their NFL football league and people even bet on NFL odds.
• the Barrathon. The island of Barra is conveniently sized so as to allow the running of this half-marathon whose track encircles Barra, beginning and ending in Castlebay. The Barrahon event first began in 2000 and thus is something of a new tradition.
• Sadly, the Western Isles Strongest Man competition is now defunct reportedly due to lack of interest. Hebrideans now compete on the mainland in the Scotland’s Strongest Man competitions which are still, well, going strong.
• the Highland Games are played throughout the world – in fact, the two largest annual competitions in terms of spectator draw are held in the U.S. – and several are held in the Hebrides. Many of the Scots-created sporting events have recognizable equivalents in the classic games, e.g. the stone put and the Scottish hammer throw; the Maide-leisg is essentially a one-on-one game of tug of war. The weight throw speaks for itself, and the sheaf toss is a simple-to-understand original sport in which players catapult a 20-pound bale over a crossbar with a pitchfork.
And of course, there is that original Scottish game which ultimately has become the symbol of these games themselves, the caber toss.
As awesome as the caber toss is to watch, however, this sport pales in comparison to the interesting complexity of the ball game called…
• Shinty comes off as a hybrid of several Euro-American sports, yet very distinctly Gaellic. Players wear gear similar to field hockey, use a stick resembling that used in ice hockey and play on a field resembling a football pitch which is bookended by goals approximately the dimensions of futsal’s. Play begins with a sort of combination of basketball’s opening jump ball and the first faceoff in hockey.
The start of the game looks like a combination of the opening jumpball in basketball and the opening faceoff in hockey. During play, the ball may be hit in the air and controlled with two feet or the chest if necessary – but sticks may not touch as in hockey. The offside penalty common in football-dervied games only exists in shinty within the goal area. In assessing penalties, referees may employ yellow cards or red cards and may award a free hit or a goal hit.
But the oddest bit about shinty may be the regional BBC broadcasts, in which the color commentary is done in standard British English but the play-by-play is in Gaelic – Glè inntinneach!
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