IBC office pétanque | Interesting facts
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Interesting facts

  • Although modern pétanque has its origins in the French Mediterranean, the game dates back to antiquity (ancient Egypt and Greece) and was given its current form in ancient Rome. Caesar brought the game of boules to Gaul, where it found fertile soil.
  • The Middle Ages were the “golden age” of ball games. During this time, several versions of the game arose on the territory of modern-day France, many of which have survived to this day. In 1369, ball games were even banned because they supposedly “distracted the subjects from their work” – something we can easily imagine. The subsequent wave of protest was so strong, however, that the ban was soon lifted. In the 19th century, there existed an infinite number of variants, many of which are still played today. Each region of the Mediterranean played according to local tradition (“raffle,” ”boule des berges,” “boules de fort,” “boule en bois,” “boules lyonnaises”). But the modern pétanque which gained wider popularity was the “jeu provencale” – the Provencal game.
  • The true tale of the birth of pétanque – In 1907 in the small Provencal town of La Ciotat, there lived a certain Jules Hugues, nicknamed “Blackie” – one of the best players of the “Provencal game.” Because of his strong rheumatism, however, he could no longer continue his playing career – in the Provencal game, the balls were thrown with a running start and at a distance of some 20 meters. So out of boredom, he would throw out his balls while seated in his chair. His friends took pity on him and began to play with him by throwing their balls from one position – from a circle drawn on the ground. They placed the jack at a distance of 8 meters. In this way, they played “pieds tanqués” or “ped tanca” – i.e., with “legs together,” without a running start. This style of play caught the attention of the owners of the local café, brothers Ernest and Joseph Pitiot. They quickly grasped the advantages of this new style, and Ernest wrote up the game’s definitive rules. In 1910, the first tournament in modern pétanque was held. Today, you can find a memorial plaque at the location.
  • Few provincial French towns have made such an indelible contribution to the history of mankind as the small town of La Ciotat near Marseille. Besides being the birthplace of pétanque – which in and of itself is enough to ensure its immortality – the famous 1895 Lumière brothers film The Arrival of the Mail Trainwas filmed at its train station. The film amazed and practically shocked the audience of the world’s first projection of moving pictures (January 6, 1896). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dgLEDdFddk


  • Historically, the game was played with stone and wooden balls. In 1904, Félix Rofritsch introduced so-called “nail boules” – wooden balls with nails densely hammered into it in order to create a kind of shell. The boules were manufacture under the brand name “La Boule Bleue,” which still exists and is run by a descendant of Rofritsch. The first metal balls were produced in 1927 at Saint-Bonnet-le Chateau. They can be seen at the Museum of the History of Pétanque and Balls. The metal balls, invented by Jean Blanc, are still manufactured today and the J.B. brand is one of the most popular in the world. In 1955, a new manufacturer appeared, the OBUT company, which gradually became the leading world supplier of boules. The company is headquartered in the same town. In addition to France, competition boules are manufactured only in Italy and newly in Thailand as well. Boules for classic pétanque are made of metal, hollow, measure 70-80 mm in diameter and weigh 650-800 grams. If you are going to play for fun with your friends, a set of balls from the local supermarket is enough. But for the real thing, we recommend competition boules. In addition to size and weight, you can also choose the type and hardness of the metal! It all depends on your personal taste, the size of your palm, and especially on your specialization within the team (pointer, shooter, or universal). You can watch a video of the balls’ manufacture at http://www.laboulebleue.fr. All technical details on the boules, tips on selecting the right ones for you, and other information can be found on the OBUT website.
  • pétanque court should be a flat, sandy (not grassy) area. The rules do not directly define the terrain on which pétanque is played, which is one of the magical aspects of the game. Players have to come to terms with the different conditions of different surfaces. Most often, however, the surface use is similar to the hard surface of park pathways (hard-packed sand with pebbles). The playing field’s dimensions should ideally be around 4x15 meters, although 3x12 meters should suffice.
  • Naturally, pétanque is most popular in France. The game belongs the local way of life just as much as the country’s excellent wines and famous cheeses. You can encounter it in all towns and villages, especially to the south of Lyon. Each year, more than 10,000 tournaments are held in France in all categories and levels. Pétanque today is a fully recognized international sport, with the International Pétanque Federation FIPJP (www.fipjp.com) bringing together 80 national associations from all the world’s continents. In all, some 600,000 people around the world play pétanque competitively. In the Czech Republic, the Czech Association of Pétanque Clubs (ČAPEK) brings together 48 clubs with just under a thousand players. The Czech Republic is represented on the FIPJP executive committee by Karel Dohnal, one of the organizers of your IBC OFFICE PÉTANQUE.
  • Especially you ladies out there, have a look at where you might find yourselves in the near future with diligent practice. The Women’s World Championships will take place in Thailand from November 12 to 15, 2009.


  • Did you know that the Czech women’s team is a leading pétanque contender? In 2007, our women won the silver medal at the European Championships in Ankara.


  • Did you know that, between March and October, there is at least one tournament a week in the CzechRepublic that is open even for non-registered (amateur) players? If you are interested, you can sign up to one of them in the spring. A list of tournaments can be found on the ČAPEK website.


  • Did you know that in Thailand pétanque is a mandatory part of military training? It helps to train coordination, team spirit, tactical thinking, and keeps the soldiers alert and aware. The game was introduced into the army by the king’s sister, who first encountered and became enamored with pétanque while in Switzerland. This is one reason why Thailand today is home to 80,000 competitive pétanque players, making the country one of the leading powers in all categories of play.


  • You surely know that one of the most prized throws in pétanque is the so-called carreau, when a player shoots his opponent’s boule in such a manner that his boule stops in exactly the same position as the original boule. The leading expert in this kind of "shooting" is Christian Fazzino of France. During exhibition play, he managed to hit a boule on the ground a total of 992 times out of a thousand throws – and around 600 of these were a carreau! Go on, give it a try.


  • Have you seen the famous pétanque scene in the French film "Je suis timide mais je me soigne"? It shows the importance of perfect concentration during the game. You’re playing not just for yourself, but for your entire team. It is up to you to make a strategic throw on which you agree with your teammates. And your team should know how to support you – after all, not every throw works out the way you wanted, and you will have to quickly change your strategy. You will need strong nerves. Pétanque is beautiful, and the scene from the movie as well – have a look.


  • At the final games of high-level competitions (but not only there), you can cut the tension in the air with a knife. At this level, your opponent will severely punish any strategic mistake or poor throw. To experience this atmosphere for at least a little while, have a look at the final game of the 2006 World Championships in Grenoble. The score is 10:3, with France leading over Tunisia. The video comes from the eighth round, and really is worth watching – especially for the level of nervousness and responsibility. As an aside, the match at the Palais de Sports in Grenoble was being watched by a live audience of 11,000! Here is thefirst part and here is the second part of the video. Can’t get enough? Have a look at an editedcompilation of the best "shots" from the game, which was won by France.