Sunday, May 16, 2010


In most parts of Latin America that I am aware of, soccer, or "fútbol" in Spanish, is the undisputed king. But in Ecuador, perhaps because their national team is so abysmal, fútbol and volleyball seem to be equally popular.

But not just any volleyball. What's played here is not the two-person beach volleyball they play in Santa Monica, nor the 6-person variety that we learned in high school. No, it is a three man sport (I've never seen women play), and its notable feature, at least from a North American point of view, is that cheating, especially concerning what's considered a "catch," is allowed. According to the Double-Tounged Dictionary the game has "permissive ball handling rules."

It is very popular. I first noticed it in Quito, our first week in country. Wandering around some neighborhood, a little lost, I first saw a large crowd, and it wasn't until we got closer that we realized it was an Ecuavolley game. In Cuenca we've seen pick-up games everywhere. I've even seen, and if you've traveled in Latin America you'll find this very hard to believe, people using the crossbar of a soccer goal as a "net" for their volleyball game. It seems to be especially popular amongst slightly overweight cab drivers, who gather at courts, public and private - yes there are private courts where people presumably pay to play, who gather after lunch for a game or two. It is a betting game, with all players anteing up a certain amount, and it is, presumably, winner take all

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