Todas las fotos son de Pau Riera

The Vietnamese Street Sport Sweeping Europe

A full-blown phenomenon in Vietnam, jianzi is a highly technical and physical sport that is becoming increasingly popular in Europe.

12 October 2016, 10:17am

Todas las fotos son de Pau Riera

This article was originally published on VICE Sports Spain

It goes by many names, but no one knows exactly what to call this Asian sport – though it's gaining increasing popularity across Europe. In its native lands it's called jianzi, but the French call it plumfoot, the Germans go with federfußball, and if you find yourself playing it in Mexico it would be gallito.

What should we call it? It's not badminton, because there are no racquets. It can't be football or volleyball because there's no ball involved, but rather a kind of shuttlecock. It's predominantly played with the feet, which makes it a cousin of what the Americans call hacky sack.

The game originated in China during the Han Dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) and was used to train the army in agility and coordination. Today it is played on streets throughout south-east Asia, with Vietnam boasting by far the most adherents.

While the stereotypical 65-year-old Brit might spend their leisure time in a bingo hall or National Trust property, in Hanoi you get used to seeing retirees cheerfully indulging in a little jianzi. On the street you spot people of all ages standing around in a circle, winding their limbs over backwards to keep the shuttle high. Within that circle, they bounce the shuttle from person to person.

Players can use pretty much any part of their body, except the hands and arms. The intention is to keep the 'spring' in the air for as long as possible, without it touching the ground. It seems easy, but huge hand-eye coordination is required. It can't be too long before we see it spreading across the streets of Britain – though whether it will tempt OAPs away from their bingo cards is another matter.