Games and Sports in Myanmar

During your time in Myanmar, you’re bound to see young men playing the national pastime called caneball or Chinlone. It involves a group of six people maneuvering a ball with their feet, occasionally catching the ball by balancing it on their heads or squeezing it between the shoulder blades. This is a non-competitive sport, and all the players play on a single team.

A variation of chinlone uses a net and is quite similar to volleyball. Each side gets three touches, using any part of the body except the hands.

Movements are quite tricky, and are meant to entertain. This game developed over a thousand years ago, as a way to amuse royalty. It’s a mesmerizing performance to this day.

Chinlone is a low maintenance sport, and players play barefoot. They don’t need any equipment besides a ball. The ball is traditionally made of rattan, but players have started using harder, plastic balls from China.

Myanmar has a kickboxing sport similar to Thailand’s Muay Thai, called lethwei. Lethwei is a more dangerous sport than Thai boxing — combatants do not wear gloves, and are allowed to head butt. You can’t win unless you knock out your opponent. If there are no knockouts in the first 5 rounds, the game is declared a draw. This sport is still popular, and there’s no sign yet of safety updates for the 21st century.

Golf and soccer came to Myanmar by way of British colonialism. You can visit soccer stadiums in Yangon and Mandalay. There is a good selection of golf courses sprinkled throughout the country, including courses in or near Yangon, Bagan, and Ngapali.

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