Curious onlookers at the gates of St Stanislaus ground on Bandra's Hill Road partially block our view of what looks like a high-energy volleyball match between mixed teams of foreign and Indian players. As the crowd parts to give us way, we realise the players are on a massive inflatable court, giving them a springy surface to bounce off it. Just then, a player does a somersault and kicks the ball across the net, as a proficient striker would to score a goal in a game of football. A few more steps closer to the court and it emerges that the area closest to the net is fitted with a trampoline on either side, allowing one player from each team to go higher up than others, just as a gymnast would.
Indian Bossaball players Asif Khan (left) and Vinayak Upadhyay
That's our introduction to Bossaball - a sport that blends elements of volleyball, football and gymnastics, where the body movements go with the flow of Brazil's zesty bossa nova music. Invented in 2005 by Filip Eyckmans, Bossaball is the result of the Belgian national's background in sports and music. A national-level tennis player with a keen interest in football, Eyckmans would DJ at private parties in his free time. Work often took him to Brazil, where he watched football, volleyball, dance and music come together in a festive vibe across the country's beaches, and that was the birth of the idea of Bossaball, which has its headquarters in Spain, where Eyckmans is now based.
Dutch player Michelle Mencke teaches the reporter (centre) some Bossaball chops
Also popular in The Netherlands, Belgium and several South American nations, the sport is making its debut in India with a launch event in Mumbai this Friday, which will be open to public as a one-day trial experience. "Bringing Bossaball to India is exciting. We have set up Bossaball events and long-term projects in 37 countries so far. India has a rich sporting culture, where cricket, kabaddi and badminton play the main roles. Physical exercise is deeply rooted in the culture and it is great to be able to add our sport to the opportunities of being active," says Eyckmans.
Flemming Soerensen, head of projects and operations, tells us that the rules of the game are closest to those of beach volleyball. We spot many Indians giving it a shot; they seem familiar with game. National-level volleyball players Asif Khan and Vinayak Upadhyay were introduced to Bossaball six months ago when an Indian sports company tied up with the founders to bring it to India. They practise regularly at Nerul Gymkhana, where the sport has a permanent set-up.
"Our team of European trainers will stay on in Mumbai for a week more to train the local players, who have reached a surprisingly high level," informs Soerensen, adding that they will soon set up more Bossaball courts in Mumbai at permanent locations like the one in Nerul, with Bandra being the most likely choice, Would Khan and Upadhyay consider playing Bossaball professionally? Playing volleyball in India does not guarantee a secure future, they admit. "With the fun that Bossaball comes with and the prospect of training others while also travelling as exhibition players to other countries, we would love to," they say.
On: March 16, 4 pm to 9 pm
At: Razberry Rhinoceros, Juhu Tara Road, Juhu
We play a game with the Spanish and Dutch teams, who will play a professional match at the launch. With few sporting skills to boast of, we miss most shots but with guidance, are able to send the ball across to the other side. With peppy music for company, and a spring in our feet quite literally, we do enjoy the game for what it is - a happy blend of sport and entertainment.
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