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Pétanque

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Pétanque (petɑ̃k) is a form of boules
Boules
Boules is a collective name for games played with metal balls.Two of the most played boule games are pétanque and boule lyonnaise. The aim of the game is to get large, heavy balls as close to the 'jack' as you can. It is very popular especially in France, but also Italy, where it may often be seen...

 where the goal is, while standing inside a starting circle with both feet on the ground, to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet (literally "piglet") or jack. It is also sometimes called a bouchon (literally "cork") or le petit ("the small one"). The game is normally played on hard dirt or gravel, but can also be played on grass, sand or other surfaces. Similar games are bocce
Bocce
Bocce is a ball sport belonging to the boules sport family, closely related to bowls and pétanque with a common ancestry from ancient games played in the Roman Empire...

 and bowls
Bowls
Bowls is a sport in which the objective is to roll slightly asymmetric balls so that they stop close to a smaller "jack" or "kitty". It is played on a pitch which may be flat or convex or uneven...

.

The current form of the game originated in 1907 in La Ciotat
La Ciotat
La Ciotat is a commune in the Bouches-du-Rhône department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southern France. It is part of the metropolitan area of Marseille Provence. La ciotat is located to the east of Marseille at an equal distance from Marseille and Toulon...

, in Provence
Provence
Provence ; Provençal: Provença in classical norm or Prouvènço in Mistralian norm) is a region of south eastern France on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. It is part of the administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur...

, in southern France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. The English and French name pétanque comes from la petanca peˈtaŋkɔ in the Provençal dialect of the Occitan language, deriving from the expression pès tancats [ˈpɛ taŋˈka], meaning "feet together" or more exactly "feet anchored".

The casual form of the game of pétanque is played by about 17 million people in France, mostly during their summer vacations. It is also widely played in neighboring Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

. There are about 375,000 players licensed with the Fédération Française de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal (FFPJP), some 3,000 in England, and 1,000 in Lafayette, Louisiana
Lafayette, Louisiana
Lafayette is a city in and the parish seat of Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, United States, on the Vermilion River. The population was 120,623 at the 2010 census...

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Another 20,000 or so play in Quebec
Quebec
Quebec or is a province in east-central Canada. It is the only Canadian province with a predominantly French-speaking population and the only one whose sole official language is French at the provincial level....

, Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. Additionally, pétanque clubs have arisen in cities throughout the United States in recent years. Petanque is also played in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

 due to the French presence in the area during the last centuries: Laos
Laos
Laos Lao: ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ Sathalanalat Paxathipatai Paxaxon Lao, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west...

, north Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

 and Cambodia
Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

.

History


The Ancient Greeks are recorded to have played a game of tossing coins, then flat stones, and later stone balls, called spheristics, trying to have them go as far as possible, as early as the 6th century BC. The Ancient Romans modified the game by adding a target that had to be approached as closely as possible. This Roman variation was brought to Provence by Roman soldiers and sailors. A Roman sepulchre in Florence shows people playing this game, stooping down to measure the points.

After the Romans, the stone balls were replaced by wooden balls, with nails to give them greater weight. In the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 Erasmus referred to the game as globurum, but it became commonly known as 'boules
Boules
Boules is a collective name for games played with metal balls.Two of the most played boule games are pétanque and boule lyonnaise. The aim of the game is to get large, heavy balls as close to the 'jack' as you can. It is very popular especially in France, but also Italy, where it may often be seen...

,' or balls, and it was played throughout Europe. King Henry III of England banned the playing of the game by his archers, and in the 14th century, Charles IV
Charles IV of France
Charles IV, known as the Fair , was the King of France and of Navarre and Count of Champagne from 1322 to his death: he was the last French king of the senior Capetian lineage....

 and Charles V of France
Charles V of France
Charles V , called the Wise, was King of France from 1364 to his death in 1380 and a member of the House of Valois...

 also forbade the sport to commoners. Only in the 17th century was the ban lifted.

By the 19th century, in England the sport had become "bowls" or "lawn bowling"; in France, it was known as boules, and was played throughout the country. The French artist Meissonnier made two paintings showing people playing the game, and Honoré de Balzac
Honoré de Balzac
Honoré de Balzac was a French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 fall of Napoleon....

 described a match in La Comédie Humaine. In the South of France it had evolved into jeu provençal, similar to today's pétanque, except that the field was larger and players ran three steps before throwing the ball. The game was played in villages all over Provence, usually on squares of land in the shade of plane trees. Matches of jeu provençal at the turn of the century are memorably described in the memoirs of novelist Marcel Pagnol
Marcel Pagnol
Marcel Pagnol was a French novelist, playwright, and filmmaker. In 1946, he became the first filmmaker elected to the Académie Française.-Biography:...

.

Pétanque in its present form was invented in 1907 in the town of La Ciotat
La Ciotat
La Ciotat is a commune in the Bouches-du-Rhône department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southern France. It is part of the metropolitan area of Marseille Provence. La ciotat is located to the east of Marseille at an equal distance from Marseille and Toulon...

 near Marseilles by a French boule lyonnaise
Boule Lyonnaise
Boule Lyonnaise is a popular French form of bowls, and may be the oldest of the French Boules sports....

 player named Jules Lenoir, whom rheumatism prevented from running before he threw the ball. The length of the pitch or field was reduced by roughly half, and the moving delivery was replaced with a stationary one.

The first pétanque tournament with the new rules was organized in 1910 by the brothers Ernest and Joseph Pitiot, proprietors of a café at La Ciotat. After that the sport grew with great speed, and soon became the most popular form of boules. The international Pétanque federation Fédération Internationale de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal was founded in 1958 in Marseille
Marseille
Marseille , known in antiquity as Massalia , is the second largest city in France, after Paris, with a population of 852,395 within its administrative limits on a land area of . The urban area of Marseille extends beyond the city limits with a population of over 1,420,000 on an area of...

 and has about 600,000 members in 52 countries (2002).

The first World Championships were organized in 1959. The most recent championships were held in Faro
Faro, Portugal
Faro is the southernmost city in Portugal. It is located in the Faro Municipality in southern Portugal. The city proper has 41,934 inhabitants and the entire municipality has 58,305. It is the seat of the Faro District and capital of the Algarve region...

 (2000), Monaco
Monaco
Monaco , officially the Principality of Monaco , is a sovereign city state on the French Riviera. It is bordered on three sides by its neighbour, France, and its centre is about from Italy. Its area is with a population of 35,986 as of 2011 and is the most densely populated country in the...

 (2001), Grenoble
Grenoble
Grenoble is a city in southeastern France, at the foot of the French Alps where the river Drac joins the Isère. Located in the Rhône-Alpes region, Grenoble is the capital of the department of Isère...

 (2002, 2004 and 2006), Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

 (2003), Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 (2005), and Pattaya
Pattaya
Pattaya is a city in Thailand, located on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand, about 165 km southeast of Bangkok located within but not part of Amphoe Bang Lamung in the province of Chonburi....

 / Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 (2007). Fifty-two teams from 50 countries participated in 2007.

Playing the game




Pétanque is played by two, four or six people in two teams, or players can compete as individuals in casual play. In the singles and doubles games each player has three boules; in triples they have only two. A coin is tossed to decide which side goes first. The starting team draws a circle on the ground which is 35-50 centimetres in diameter: all players must throw their boules from within this circle, with both feet remaining on the ground. The first player throws the jack 6–10 metres away; it must be at least one metre from the boundary.

Order of play


The player who threw the jack then throws their first boule. A player from the opposing team then makes a throw. Play continues with the team that is not closest to the jack having to continue throwing until they either land a boule closer to the jack than their opponents or run out of boules.

If the closest boules from each team are an equal distance from the jack, then the team that played last plays again. If the boules are still equidistant then the teams play alternately until the position changes. If the boules are still equidistant at the end of the game then no points are scored by either team.

The game continues with a player from the team that won the previous end drawing a new circle around where the jack finished and throwing the jack for a new end.

Scoring


Play ends, and points may be scored when both teams have no more boules, or when the jack is knocked out of play. The winning team receives one point for each boule that it has closer to the jack than the best-placed boule of the opposition.

If the jack is knocked out of play, no team scores unless only one team has boules left to play. In this case the team with boules receives one point for each that they have to play.

The first team to reach 13 points wins.

Further rules

  1. A boule hitting a boundary is dead and is removed from that end.
  2. On a court or piste
    Piste
    A piste is a marked ski run or path down a mountain for snow skiing, snowboarding, or other mountain sports. The term is European, from the French for trail or track, synonymous with trail, slope, or groomed run in North America....

     marked with strings a boule is dead if it completely crosses the string.
  3. The circle can be moved back in the line of the previous end if there is not room to play a 10 metre end.
  4. The boule can be thrown at any height or even rolled depending on the terrain.
  5. Boules are thrown underarm, usually with the palm of the hand downwards which allows backspin to be put on the boule giving greater control.
  6. Each team should have suitable measuring equipment. In most cases a tape measure is adequate but callipers or other measuring devices may be needed.

Boules


Boules must be made of metal. Competition boules must meet the following specifications:
  • bear engravings indicating the manufacturer's name and the weight of the boule.
  • have a diameter between 70.5 and 80 mm.
  • have a weight between 650 and 800 g.
  • not be filled with sand or lead, or be tampered with in any way


In addition, a boule may bear an engraving of the player's first name or initials.

Choice of boule


The diameter of the boule is chosen based on the size of the player's hand. The weight and hardness of the boule depends on the player's preference and playing style. "Pointers" tend to choose heavier and harder boules, while "shooters" often select lighter and softer boules.

Leisure boules


These boules do not meet competition standards but are often used for "backyard" games. They are designed to suit all ages and sexes, and can be made of metal, plastic or wood (for play on a beach, for instance).

Competition jacks


Competition jacks must meet the following specifications:
  • made of wood or of synthetic material
  • carry the maker's mark and have secured confirmation by the F.I.P.J.P. that they comply exactly with the relevant specification.
  • have a diameter of 30mm (tolerance + or - 1mm).

Strategy


A successful pétanque team has players who are skilled at shooting as well as players who only point. For obvious reasons, the pointer or pointers play first – the shooter or shooters are held in reserve in case the opponents place well. In placing, a boule in front of the jack has much higher value than one at the same distance behind the jack, because intentional or accidental pushing of a front boule generally improves its position. At every play after the very first boule has been placed, the team whose turn it is must decide whether to point or shoot. Factors that count in that decision include:
  1. How close to the jack the opponents' best boule is,
  2. The state of the terrain (an expert pointer can practically guarantee to place within about 15 centimeters if the terrain is well tended, not so if it's rocky or uneven), and
  3. How many boules each team has yet to play.


A team captain, in an idealized game, requires his pointer to place a boule reasonably close in approach to the jack (paradoxically, in competition, the first pointer sometimes aims not to get so close to the jack that the opponents will inevitably shoot their boule immediately). They then visualize an imaginary circle with the jack as its centre and the jack-boule distance as radius and defend that circle by any legitimate means.

Glossary of special terms


Like any sport, petanque has its own special vocabulary. The following are a list of common phrases with explanations.
  • To have the point
To have one or more boules placed closer to the jack than those of the opponent(s).
  • Holding
The phrase "We're holding" or "They're holding" is another way of expressing the above situation regarding having the point.
  • Pointing
To throw one's boule with the intent of stopping near the jack (also known as placing).
  • Shooting
To throw one's boule at one of the opponent's boules to knock it out of play. This is often done when the opponent has pointed his/her boule very close to the jack.
To throw one's boule in a high arc so that when it lands it only rolls minimally.
  • À carreau
A special feat in which the shooter knocks the opponent's boule out while leaving his boule at or very near the point of impact .
  • To fanny (mettre fanny in French)
To beat one's opponents 13 to 0. The figure of a bare-bottomed lass named Fanny is ubiquitous in Provence wherever pétanque is played. It is traditional that when a player loses 13 to 0 it is said that “il est fanny” (he's fanny) or “il a fait fanny” (he made fanny), and that he has to kiss the bottom of a girl called Fanny. Since there is rarely an obliging Fanny's behind handy, there is usually a substitute picture, woodcarving or pottery so that Fanny’s bottom is available. More often, the team which made "fanny" has to offer a beverage to the winning team (see the French popular expression "Fanny paie à boire !").
  • To do the bec (faire le bec, meaning "to give a light kiss")
Targeting one of your boules already in play and knocking it toward the jack.
  • To technical fanny
To beat one's opponents by scoring 13 consecutive points without the opposition scoring anymore but having already scored. For example a team could score 12 points and the opposition could then score all 13 points and win the game with a technical fanny.
  • Game on the Ground
Meaning one team is lying in a match-winning position while an end is still in progress and will win unless their opponents change the situation.

See also

  • Bocce
    Bocce
    Bocce is a ball sport belonging to the boules sport family, closely related to bowls and pétanque with a common ancestry from ancient games played in the Roman Empire...

  • Boccia
    Boccia
    Boccia is a traditional recreational sport, similar to bocce. The name Boccia is derived from the Latin word for boss – bottia. The sport is competed at national and international level, by athletes who require a wheelchair because of physical disability...

  • Curling
    Curling
    Curling is a sport in which players slide stones across a sheet of ice towards a target area. It is related to bowls, boule and shuffleboard. Two teams, each of four players, take turns sliding heavy, polished granite stones, also called "rocks", across the ice curling sheet towards the house, a...

  • Kubb
    Kubb
    Kubb is a lawn game where the object is to knock over wooden blocks by throwing wooden sticks at them. Kubb can be simply described as a combination of bowling and horseshoes...

     a Swedish throwing game
  • Lawn Bowls
  • Bolas criollas
    Bolas criollas
    Bolas Criollas is a traditional team sport from Venezuela, very popular in the Llanos and most rural regions. It is one of the most representative icons of Llanero culture...


International pétanque governing bodies


General petanque links