Four teams will be competing like the Mayans this weekend at the first Gran Copa Peninsular de Pok Ta Pok. The tournament starts Saturday, with teams from Playa del Carmen, Tihosuco, Chapab and Opichen participating. Only two will go on to compete in the Juego de Pelota during the fall equinox, where other countries that were also part of the Mayan world will participate.
But what is Pok Ta Pok? “It’s a game, a way of life, a ritual, and a ceremony,” said Juan Sosa Puerto, the president of del Instituto de Historia y Museos de Yucatán, according to Desde el Balcón. The objective is to get a ball through an elevated ring without using hands or feet, making it a sort of mix between basketball and fútbol, and yes, it is as complicated as it sounds. If you’re a much more visual person, then check out this video to get the gist of the idea, though you might find yourself frustrated at the fact that they can’t just pick up the ball. (Also, note that YTers say that this is more of tourist demonstration, which may be one reason the hoop is not as high.)
A lot has also been written about the sacrificial element of the game, with some historians saying that the losers were killed and others saying that it depended on whether or not the game held religious significance. Since the pre-Columbian game was played in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala – and maybe even Nicaragua and Arizona – it’s possible that’s why there are different variations. José Manrique, director of the Desarrollo Cultural y Artístico de SEDECULTA, that there have been more than 1,500 playing fields found, some of which are more than 3,500 years old.