Pétanque: it’s not just a pastime

One of the best things about Pétanque is that practically anyone can play, regardless of sex or age. It’s not just a sport for retired men. Yes, you are more likely to come across elderly men playing the sport but statistics show that more and more women are taking part.

And this was completely evident when we visited Seal Pétanque Club on a beautiful spring day in March. Men and women, and children too, were all participating in the game together at The White Rock Inn public house in Underriver on a Sunday morning, in what they call a melee.

After a brief introduction to the game, we were handed some boules and thrown straight into a game. Getting the right weight and distance of the throw seemed to be the biggest hurdle, but by the time we had worked that one out we were already eight points to two down, it’s first to 13, so roll on match number two!

We put our first match down to nerves and shot out of the blocks in the second game. Our distance and weight perfect, however those that have played for a while know all the ‘trade’ secrets. The total disappointment when your boules are simply cleared from the field of play by the opposition, and after being so close too! We were hooked!

Pétanque origins
The French would have you believe that they invented the game, but the origins of Pétanque can be traced as far back as Ancient Greece when people played games which involved tossing coins and stones.

The Ancient Romans then came up with the idea of adding a target – which in the case of the French interpretation of the game is called a ‘cochonnet’. As for the name Pétanque, it comes from the word “la petanca” in Provençal dialect, deriving from pès tancats or ‘feet together’.

A gentle pastime, you say?
Pétanque may be regarded by many as a gentle pastime but it has been known to get out of hand. In 2008 a man in the village of Adé in the Pyrenees was killed by a fellow player’s ball as he was checking how close his own was to the target – the tiny cochonnet ball.

And be all means don’t mention that to the World Federation of the Sport of Boules. Founded in 1985 by three international boules organisations, the federation has fought for decades to get the game recognised as an Olympic sport. There is true hope that this will be realised in 2024 when the Olympics will be hosted by France.

In this year’s Pétanque World Cup – in which women have only been allowed to compete since 2002 – a grand total of 456 women are taking part. Today around 14 percent of the sport’s 311,971 registered members in France are women. According to the President of the Ligue Paca, women bring a certain “sensibility” to the sport that the male players lack.

About Seal Pétanque Club
Seal Pétanque Club is one of Kent’s major and longest running Pétanque Clubs with over 30 years history. Originally based at The Crown Pub in Seal High Street, the club has been based in Underriver since 2010.

The club has two teams in the Kent League with matches every Wednesday throughout the summer. Members also meet every Tuesday evening at 7.30pm from April to October for their ‘Practice’ night and all are welcome to pop along to give it a go.

Club Chairman, Howard Sandom said: “We are always on the lookout for new members of all ages. We would love to show visitors the basics of the game by joining in and playing with us. It’s a great way to enjoy a summer’s evening, whether you are 8 or 80”.

He continued: “We’ll provide you with boules and with some basic coaching you’ll be enjoying this fascinating game in no time. After a visit or two, if you decide you’d like to join our club as a family or as an individual member, then there is lots of fun to be had both playing and socially.”

Contact the team at Seal Pétanque Club if you fancy giving it a go. Call Howard on 07860 711295 or email him at howardsandom@gmail.com.