When you visit Myanmar, it is usual to see some people playing chinlone which is also known as Myanmar caneball on the side of some streets or in the yards of some houses. ‘Chinlone’ is a popular traditional sport in Myanmar. Unlike any other sports which are competitive and aggressive, chinlone is a sport which focuses more on creativity, concentration, and agility. Chinlone can be played by men, women, and children. It is an entertaining and enjoyable sport for both players and audiences.
The sport is played by a team typically consisting of six players standing in a circle. The ball used in the sport is made from rattan. It is the only requirement to play the sport. The players pass the ball using any parts of the body such as head, feet, and knee except hands as they play in the circle. While the rest is passing the ball, one player can go into the center of the circle and make some moves to create a dance. Therefore, chinlone is a combination of the sport and dance. The round is over if the ball touches the ground and another round can be started again.
The players wear matching shirts and shorts professionally. There are no exact rules on what to wear to play the sport. However, most of the men who are amateur players wear longyis which are hiked up and wrapped around their waist. Moreover, it is usually played barefoot or by using special chinlone shoes which allow the players to feel the ball which is small and light. People play chinlone in both urban and rural areas especially in the evenings to get some exercise and enhance friendship with other people.
Chinlone festivals are held in the small stadiums of Mahamyatmuni Pagoda in Mandalay during the month of Waso (around July) annually. Teams from all over the country travel to Mandalay to take part in the festival. A commentator provides a lively narration on the performance of the players and the judges mark them on their style, creativity and body movements. The team work is important as the players perform as a team and they do not compete with other teams. There are about 200 different ways of touching the ball and these techniques can be used for self-expression. In addition to the typical form, there is a single performance style called “tapandaing” which means solo performance.
Chinlone is the sport that fits the tradition and unique culture of Myanmar. It is more than 1,500 years old and it was first created as a mean of entertaining the royal family. It is influenced by traditional martial arts, sport and dance. In 2013, chinlone was played as an official sport of SEA Games hosted by Myanmar in which Myanmar won gold medals in its unique sport.
By Hnin Thida Nwe, ASEAN correspondent from Myanmar