Tuvalu: Te Ano Ball Game

Two nights in a raw we watched the locals play a strange-looking ball game on the grass along the airfield runways. The game is called “te ano”, and is somewhat reminiscent of volleyball, although it is quite different. The game is played by two teams using two heavy balls, weaved from pandanus palm leaves. Each team includes men and women who stand in a row against each other, while fronted by a captain (like American football quarterback) and a catcher. The catcher throws the ball to the captain who hurls it toward the other team as hard as he can. Both balls and both teams are playing simultaneously. Both catchers and captains perform elaborate moves trying to confuse the other team and throw the ball in elaborate fashion. The members of the opposite team have to catch the ball like in volleyball and pass it forward to the catcher so the ball doesn’t hit the ground. The process then repeats. When the ball hits the ground, the opposite team scores a point, and the game goes until 10 points. After victory, the winning team sings and dances the tradition “fatele” ceremony, while the opposite team sits in the ground watching in defeat.