Ever since Greek runners launched the foot races that morphed into the Olympics events held today, individual nations have sought to make their international mark on sports by reclaiming their own traditions.
For the people of Central America, an ancient Maya competition that’s as much historic as it is physically punishing has grown into a near-obsession: Pok Ta Pok is a sport that consists of moving a rubber ball around a field by players who are only permitted to use their hips and thighs to control the ball.
During heyday of Maya domination throughout the region, this life-and-death game had dire consequences for losing teams, and while today’s version has the capacity to leave participants feeling humiliated and depressed, at least nobody loses their lives in the process.
Who are the victors of the 2019 games? Belize, of course. This tenacious team beat out El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Guatemala and Honduras handily on the 5th of May with their “take no prisoners” attitude and a big helping of national pride. In fact, Belize’s Ek’ Balam (Black Jaguars) elevated the world’s longest, continually-played competition to new heights, saluting the ancient teams who invented this sport.
That Belize is proud of this outcome would be an understatement! There was a lot riding on an Ek’ Balam victory and every one of the 10-member team was willing to take their A Game to opposing teams throughout the competition that started on April 29th under the sponsorship of The Central American and Caribbean Association of the Ancestral Sport of Maya Ball.
Since the Black Jaguars also took first place at this event in 2017, the team is building a reputation for excellence that is going to be hard to beat in the years ahead. For this reason and so many more, the management and staff at Chabil Mar Villas in Placencia applaud this feisty team for bringing the win home to Belize and for showing how team spirit and love of country can make all the difference.