8 unique world sports in TEFL destinations

Worried that heading off to TEFL means leaving behind your usual Saturday football games or soccer shows? Scared you’re going to miss out on that world cup atmosphere while wallowing away your youthful years in a nation that’s never going to qualify (Argentina excluded of course!)? Well, never fear, because there are oodles of truly unique world sports that TEFL teachers can indulge in, going from duck-related horse games in the lands of the gauchos to dune riding in Nam’. Enjoy…

Muay Thai, Chiang Rai | © chem7/Flickr
Muay Thai, Chiang Rai | © chem7/Flickr

Muay Thai, Thailand

Hailed by many as one of the purest forms of any fighting sport on the planet, Muay Thai is now right up there with wrestling, martial arts, karate and the like. The sport rose to fame in the last 100 years as its masters became known for their ability to pin down opponents in other disciplines, and today you can see colossal Muay Thai arenas peppering the central streets of Bangkok, ad hoc rings in places like Koh Phi Phi and Koh Samui, and regular shows in the north too, notably around the hugely popular TEFL town of Chiang Mai. Check out the use of all the limbs, and expect a frightening combo of kicks, punches, grapples and submission holds!

Sandboarding, Vietnam

Although perhaps something more of a popular pastime for the folk of Mui Ne town (a beautiful coastal spot and windsurfing mecca on the south-eastern coast of Vietnam) rather than an out-and-out competitive sport, sandboarding has nonetheless risen and risen up the ranks of things to do here. Today, travelers come from far and wide to rent out makeshift plastic boards and carve through the White and Red Dunes that encompass the city, while others will even bring their snowboards along for a little bit of tropical carving!

world sports
Bali, Ubud | © Shura/Flickr

Mepantigan mud games, Bali

One of the more recent forms of martial arts popular on the Far Eastern Isle of the Gods, the Mepantigan mud games take place in the jungles and cascading rice paddies around Ubud. Coming from deep in the heart of the island, the tradition only started in the late 20th century, when Denpasar local Putu Witsen decided to fuse schools of traditional Balinese dancing and arts and crafts. Today, the half-sport half-cultural show is known across the planet, and Putu himself (still hosting wrestling shows amidst the muddy fields of Gianyar regency) has led his troupe across the world giving performances.

E-sports, Korea

Sport or not a sport? Join the debate if you will, or simply settle down on your weekend away for the classroom to watch one of South Korea’s hotly contested e-sport tourneys. Certainly no child’s play, these things are taken really, really seriously. Big money is at stake in games like StarCraft and League of Legends, and the events attract raucous crowds of competing fans, many of whom turn up dressed head to toe in the ubiquitous fantasy paraphernalia. It’s an interesting watch if nothing else!

Bossaball, Spain

While most TEFLers will be making a beeline for the Spanish beaches in the summer for bouts of sunbathing and swimming in the Med, others might just be heading to compete in one of the country’s newest seaside world sports phenomenon: Bossaball. Played on specially made bouncy castle with trampolines plugged on each side and a volleyball net strung across the middle, the whole affair is a spectacular fusion of backflip kicks and soaring hand grabs that resembles both badminton (albeit badminton on energy drinks) and soccer. And once you’re done with this uber-fun example of unique world sports, you can kick-back with a sangria and mark that weekly homework stack. Or not.

World sports
Gaucho | © LWYang/Flickr

Tuk Tuk Polo, Sri Lanka

Any TEFL teacher who’s had the privilege of working in South or Southeast Asia will know the buzz and purr of the ubiquitous auto-rickshaw, and most all travelers will remember that first heart-thumping tuk tuk ride around Bangkok’s Khaosan Road or Mumbai’s throbbing Fort area. Well, the folk of the famous Teardrop of India are taking it to the next level, fusing tuk tuk rides and polo in one crash-tempting competition on the fields of pretty colonial Galle. Teachers in Sri Lanka should most certainly drop the surfboards and hiking boots to attend this one when they can!

Juego del Pato, Argentina

Imagine this: a duck in a basket; Argentinian rancheros riding across the Atlantic beaches; a Quidditch-esque ring for scoring. Yep, that’s pretty much the national sport of the Argentine peoples, even if today the poor old duck has been replaced with a leather ball in a basket. Competing for possession of the so-called pato can only be done by riders standing vertically in their stirrups, while fiercely contested meetings between different groups of gauchos makes for a truly dramatic show.

Bo-taoshi | © DozoDomo/Flickr
Bo-taoshi | © DozoDomo/Flickr

Bo-taoshi, Japan

Prepare to gasp and groan at this Japanese bout of capture-the-flag-style competition. Rough and rugby-like, perhaps the most curious of world sports here involves teams of up to 150 on each side (the annual showdown at the country’s National Defense Academy is known for its size). Teams are split into contingents for defence and attack, each vying for control of a flag pole. So-called ‘ninjas’ man the pole itself as it moves through the field, while attackers often resort to a whole host of less-than-savoury antics to gain control of the prize. A fine introduction to the weirdness and wonderfulness of Japan, you can break from the fray of Tokyo or Kyoto to see this one played on school sports days!


Can you think of any more interesting world sports that TEFL teachers could enjoy? Or, have we got you thinking about taking the plunge and heading abroad to teach? Be sure to leave a comment and check out our TEFL internships across the globe…

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