Lelo Burti (Georgia)
Name of sport (game)
Name in native language
Place of practice (continent, state, nation)
Lelo Burti literally means ‘field ball’. It originated from the time of the Ottoman Empire when, according to legend, a large Ottoman army was defeated by a small group of Gurian troops. Since then the game is played in commemoration of the event.
Although the game is commonly known as ‘rugby without rules’, some do exist:
Players are divided into two teams: Zemo (upper) Shukhuti and Kvemo (lower) Shukhuti. There is no set number of players – the bigger the better, as it increases the chances of winning.
The game is played with a ball which is filled with sand and dirt, soaked with wine and sown shut before the event. It should weigh approximately 16kg.
The game starts in the centre of the village, and players have to carry the ball over to one of the streams on the opposite side ( approximate 500 meters away from each other). Everything between the streams form the game area, including courtyards and orchards.
Once the ball crosses the stream the game is over. The winners have the privilege to carry the ball to the grave of a respected member of the community who died the year before.
In the event of an injury, participants raise their hands which is a sign to pause the game and take the injured to safety. It works in most cases.
Players can’t be under the influence of alcohol.
Event preparations start long before the time. Everyone, including cultural and sport managers are involved in preparing competitions. Kids exercise, choirs and bands have rehearsals, while local entrepreneurs prepare their products.