Profiles in Weirdness: Great Balls Of Fire

In the city of Cirebon, on the north coast of the Indonesian island of Java, a group of boarding school students are sweeping a dusty courtyard which will function as a soccer pitch, assembling goals posts out of bamboo (Gilligan’s Island style), and most importantly — husking dry coconut shells which they then soak overnight in buckets of kerosene.

Oh nooooooooo!

What the name of Sam Hill is going on here? Pal, welcome to the world of Indonesian Flaming Coconut Soccer!

The tradition appears to go back about 40 years or so, when the instructors at these boarding schools noticed that kids these days weren’t as interested in Indonesia’s traditional martial art, Pencak Silat — prefering to kick a ball around to getting kicked in the balls. Just like your crabby right wing uncle, these teachers worried that soccer was going to turn the young men totally fucking gay or something. So, they decided that ye olde beautiful game needed some butching up, by replacing the regular ball with flaming coconuts. Did we mention that this version of the game gets played barefoot as well?

The game, called Sepak Bola Api (“The Fireball Game”) in Indonesian, is traditionally played at the beginning of Ramadan, often between the junior and senior classes at the boarding schools. Games are sometimes accompanied by fireworks and/or a synchronized flaming baton twirling display before the match gets started — just in case you need to see more fire. As you might expect, the game seems to focus on a lot of extremely short passes without a lot of dribbling or fancy footwork. And yes, the goalkeeper does handle the ball and throw-ins happen as usual.

A match that ends in a draw gets decided by penalties, as shown in this video around the 2:15 mark:

It’s unclear what’s in for the winners, other than bragging rights and maybe a discount on their medical bills at the local burn unit.

Now that I’ve seen Sepak Bola Ali, I’m thinking about the other sports that could be improved by setting things on fire. I mean, flaming puck unicycle hockey sounds so awesome I can’t believe a bunch of drunk Canadians haven’t come up with it already.

[news wire sound effects]

BREAKING NEWS…. ladies and gentlemen, we here at The Daves I Know can now confirm that a bunch of drunken Canadians have indeed invented flaming puck unicycle hockey. We will provide further updates as this story develops….


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