This article was translated by John R. Bopp
The Irish daily Irish Times has published an article today penned by Guy Hedgecoe, their correspondent for the Iberian Peninsula, analyzing the delicate situation of the most universal of Basque sports: handball. Special attention is paid to cesta punta or jai alai, “the fastest sport in the world,” which after the jai alai crisis in the US, has been losing a lot of ground in presence and number of athletes.
The article discusses the jai alai crisis in the world and how this decadent situation seems to be happening even in the Basque Country. It doesn’t seem capable of resisting the impulse and omnipresence of soccer that takes up an ever greater part of adults’ attention and kids’ sports time.
Added to this issue is the ever-growing option of school sports, meaning fewer kids today are participating in jai alai than a few decades ago. It also seems that the number of jai alai courts, or frontons, is rather low when compared to the facilities being offered for basketball or soccer itself.
On the other hand, we can see how news comes in from around the world about Basque handball, and how there’s a movement to rebuild the sport’s image and get more people playing it for competition and for fun. This movement is especially focused on young kids; furthermore, women are demanding their space in the sport, as well.
We don’t know what the future of this most Basque of sports will be, but we do believe that its future depends on society’s commitment to continue playing it and giving it as many opportunities as possible, both by making sure there are enough facilities, and bring back its prestige. And this commitment is going to depend in part on how much dedication our institutions give its promotion, especially from the media, who need to give it a decent and relevant place in the sports section.
Irish Times – 31/5/2016 – Irlanda
Basque Country’s ‘fastest sport in world’ running out of support
With his tall, muscular frame, tanned face and Red Bull baseball cap, Iñaki Osa Goikoetxea tends to stand out from the crowd in his home town of Zumaia, on Spain’s Basque coast. That’s not surprising, because he has spent most of his adult life abroad as a professional jai alai player. On the courts of Florida, his athletic body was perfectly suited to jai alai, which involves flinging a hard ball against a wall with a large, banana- shaped basket. Based in Miami, he excelled and became a multiple world champion in a sport that the Basques invented and then exported round the world, not only to the United States, but also to France, Latin America, the Philippines and elsewhere.