Remains of a Mayan Ball Court
According to the BBC, the finals of a revived 3,000-year-old ball game have been played in the Mexican city of Teotihuacan. The game known as ‘Ullamaliztli’ has ancient cultural and religious significance in Mexico. Giant ball courts can still be seen in ruins across the region, for example in the famous Yukatan region.
Some researchers have suggested how in ancient times the losers of the game were often sacrificed to the Gods!
Unlike soccer, players use their hips rather than their feet, and the ball is made of solid rubber (factoid: ancient Mesoamericans were the first to invent rubber balls).
Whilst we do not suggest a direct relation to association football ('soccer'), Ullamalitztli is interesting to us because it evidences how variants of ball games emerged around the world and how contemporary interest in reviving the sport shows that games and sport can have significance to culture and society.
Prof James A. Fox of Stanford University reveals how the indigenous people of the region, the Mayans, sometimes died from “bleeding bruises” from playing sports involving the hard rubber balls, which they sometimes headed as well as using their hips. Perhaps because of the inherent danger, the actual playing of the sports was often delegated to teams of captives or prisoners!
For more information about Mayan ball sports and games here are a couple of interesting links including the BBC article: