How the Hot Air Balloon World Cup exploded to become your new favorite sport | sport

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Who hasn’t been to a children’s party and started an impromptu holding party with a ball? It’s fun, addicting, and can get very competitive. Well, that same game just had its own World Cup, won by Peru, after an exciting final watched by sold-out crowds in Spain and around eight million Twitch viewers online.

If you are wondering how a seemingly childish activity could become a legitimate source of sports entertainment, we have to go back to Covid lockdowns and how those with cabin fever got creative to stay active at home. Some juggled toilet paper rolls do not have indoor parkour or ran marathons on their balconies.

Antonio and Diego Arredondo, and their sister Isabel, relived their childhood by dramatically jumping in their Oregon living room as they attempted to hold a ball in the air.

“We started arguing over whether [the balloon] hit the ground or not, so we started taking slow motion videos to see if it was, and then finally we got to the next point: let’s post this video of us on Tik-Tok, ”Antonio told Reuters. Their extremely entertaining games quickly went viral.

In Spain, famous streamer Ibai Llanos has become a big fan, as has Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué, who loves fun and is in shape to get involved in other sports, after reshuffling the Davis Cup.

Llanos joked on Twitter in August that the game should have its own World Cup, with Pique responding that he would get there if Llanos’ tweet received more than 50,000 retweets. It has become much more. With a bit of shrewd marketing, Llanos’ one-time remark became a reality in Tarragona last weekend.

Thirty-two competitive hot air balloon teams were invited to push their skills to the limit in a battle to be crowned World Champions at PortAventura Theme Park.

Moroccan Yahya El Hajouji in action with Sweden’s Nicklas Hallback. Photograph: Albert Gea / Reuters

Diego Arredondo, one of the siblings widely credited with inspiring the tournament, was among those competing in an eye-catching arena that resembled a glass living room. In later laps, oddly enough, a car was parked in the middle, but every successful sport needs a sponsor.

The rules are simple: the ball must always be kicked upwards and a point is won if it hits the ground. Matches last between two and five minutes and the player who leads when the clock stops wins and, like squash, competitors should not get in the way of their rivals.

The highlights of the matches are a lot of fun to watch again, with Spanish commentators Llanos and Ander Corts losing him regularly as they revel in the underhand tactics of competitors playing drop-shot behind obstacles or when a player jump over furniture to save a point. Unlike some sports, men can play against women and helmets should be worn to protect against head injuries – a collision with the corner of a dining table can be unpleasant.

Officials from the football world take their jobs very seriously and return close calls to the VAR room, where slow motion is used to determine whether the ball is touching the ground or not. Former La Liga veteran assistant referee Rafa Guerrero is particularly unofficial as he keeps a close eye on the game, with expert Pique regularly asking for his opinion as if he were a fledgling sport veteran and not a Spanish football legend.

Peruvian Francesco De La Cruz lifts the World Cup trophy after beating Germany's Jan Spiess 6-2 in the final.
Peruvian Francesco De La Cruz lifts the World Cup trophy after beating Germany’s Jan Spiess 6-2 in the final. Photograph: Albert Gea / Reuters

There is a thrilling first-round derby between Andorra and France that suddenly ends with a score of 6-6 before a French rookie error (a down kick) gives the little one principality a huge victory. There is an angry backlash from Italy as they are controversially eliminated by Morocco and there is a shock first-round defeat for one of the sport’s founding fathers as Arredondo, representing the United States. , is dropped by Cuba.

Great Britain also falls at the first hurdle, with Equatorial Guinea proving far too cunning with a mix of powerful strikes and feather finger strikes to advance 6-3.

Online numbers reached 600,000 simultaneous viewers as the tournament reached the final between Peru’s Francesco de la Cruz and Germany’s Jan Spiess. The 300 fans crammed into the venue (including Sergio Agüero and Jordi Alba) got their money’s worth as the players threw themselves onto the pitch in epic style, bouncing off furniture and knocking down chairs in a thrilling spectacle.

It was De la Cruz, 18, who emerged victorious after expertly using the car for balloon drops. “I am very, very happy, I thank God that I was able to achieve this,” he said after lifting the Golden Ball (the Golden Ball?) And winning € 10,000 (£ 8,430 ).

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It is not known if the event was unique or if it will return next year. But if people continue to buy the #keepitup World Cup balloon merchandise line-up and post videos of their own skills online, then expect this to become an annual event. Some World Cups are worth organizing more regularly.



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