Some Italians often claim, full of conviction, that they invented football. Seems like history proved them wrong, as the most famous sport in the world was, indeed, conceived on the other side of the Channel. But Italians often forget, or want to forget, about their real national sport. One that puts together complex athletic gestures, thrilling competition, and strong social interactions. The game of bocce is indeed the quintessence of the Italian sport.
Bocce can be considered as one of the oldest sports ever played by human beings. It is believed that as early as 5000 BC a certain form of this game was played. Of the three existent modern bocce's disciplines, raffa was developed extensively by Romans, and has been played in all corners of the peninsula since then. The easiness to set up a game of bocce made this sport tremendously popular. In the past, fields could be found on the side of restaurants and bars, and men were usually playing it as soon as getting off from work.
Because of its leisurely aura, bocce has been trapped in a constant discussion between who considers it a real sport and who, on the other hand, thinks of it as a game. In today's social imagery bocce is only played by old retired men on the dusty fields of a social club or under a freeway bridge. Furthermore, saying to "go to play bocce" has become some sort of insult towards who is not really capable of playing sports, or just isn't really fit. But, beyond what is commonly believed, bocce has behind itself a hyper radicated organization and thousands of players playing against each other agonistically.
During 2017, in Italy, 113.875 people subscribed to the Federazione Italiana Bocce (Italian Bocce Federation) through the many sports clubs founded in all the twenty regions. The best teams challenge themselves for the title of Italian champion in the first-tier league, Serie A. While in parallel other teams compete in regional or national tournaments that are usually held during the weekends.
Breaking off the walls of suspicion surrounding this sport may be hard, but the next years are going to represent an important test bench for this sport, as the international bocce confederation (CMSB) will present a bid to finally make the three bocce disciplines (raffa, pétanque and bocce volo) Olympic games starting in 2024 with the Olympics in Paris. If that happens, it could take off guard more than one person.