The city is set to witness the transformation of traditional games like goti and hopscotch into professional pursuits

Remember how as a young boy you thought that your trouser pocket was meant only to carry marbles. You stuffed it with them. You kept adding to your proud collection; those little glass spheres, some clear, others with different colours in them. How many times have you held the blue or red marble to the light to see the world look so different? Marbles were favourites.

The game was simple and could be played anywhere. Dig a small hole or draw a circle on the ground, choose the game, and you were ready. There was a time when it was usual to see boys shooting marbles all over the neighbourhood.

Professional goti tour

Like so many aspects of childhood, playing marbles and other forms of amusement are rapidly becoming extinct. Fondness for old-fashioned, traditional games is not just about being nostalgic or foolishly sentimental. There are groups who have begun to show concern and have chalked out elaborate plans to revive the game. A professional goti tour is slated to begin with the Cochin Open Professional Tournament in Kochi sometime in August this year.

“The date has not been finalised. But it will be in August. We know that there are some serious players in Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha and Thrissur. In Kochi some of us are players. We hope to follow it up with a Travancore Royal Goti Challenge and the Malabar Classic Goti Tour this year itself. All these events will be professionally organised and managed,” says Sijin B.T., founder of Synergians, an NGO formed by a group of professionals engaged in various social responsibility activities.

Marbles is one of the world’s most popular street games. It is also known by other names such as goli and goti. “This is just a part of our initiative to revive and promote traditional sports. We have begun an effort to package a few such games such as goti, hopscotch and seven tiles. Now our prime focus is on redesigning goti as a professional game, seeing as it is considered a children’s game and even stigmatised in some societies.

More than preservation or revival of a traditional game, the Synergians embarked on this venture more as part of social commitment. “We believe that sport has the power to transform individuals. Sport is also a business and an employment opportunity but unfortunately in our country it remains, cricket being an exception, still an unexploited industry. We thought we should move away from established sports and provide a new platform. Instead of depending on government assistance, games that require very little investment, like goti for example, can be effectively promoted,” explains Jibu Gibson, joint-founder, Synergians.

Their first attempt was to revitalise hopscotch, a traditional game also known as vatu kali or akku kali. “Hopscotch is very popular worldwide. We know that celebrities such as Michelle Obama, Helen Mirren, Jennie Finch and others are hooked on to this game. Our version is called Hopzz, a blend of hope and hop. We have not attempted to promote it as a competitive sport but rather as an exercise regimen. It is supposed to be an effective cardiovascular exercise with properties of resistance exercise and is good to build leg muscles, offers flexibility and balance and helps develop coordination,” says Sijin.

For all the games they have redesigned and hope to promote professionally the Synergians have introduced definite steps like uniform rules and regulations. “We have been in constant touch with people to provide ideas to help make the games competitive and interesting to spectators. This has prompted us to introduce customised uniforms, a defined play area, equipment, accessories etc. We have created a language and terminology for the games; and look for special promotional strategies,” says Sijin.

Golf has been the model on which the goti game has been developed. So we have the goti course or the play area which can have different terrain, the holes are called G-holes, the players need to key-in to decide who plays first. The first player who takes the shot needs to take it from the key-in point, the game starts and the players attempt to slap or hit the goti of his competitors always trying to complete the nine-hole game.

“We have also drawn up an etiquette chart that will be followed strictly. Players can be dressed in casuals or formals but shirts or T-shirts must be tucked in. They must wear shoes, a belt and a cap. We insist that players be well-groomed. Along with other rules that players need to follow there will be a tab on discipline. Any act of frustration, outbursts of temper, screaming, throwing the gotis in disgust or despair will lead to serious action,” says Jibu.

In The Moral Judgment of the Child, Jean Piaget uses marbles to illustrate a child’s passage through various phases before arriving at a mature, fully moral understanding of social conventions. Piaget says that with perfectly polished marbles, humans encourage the development of small motor skills and digital finesse.

The next time you see a group of people dressed smartly and crouched in concentration, with colourful marbles strewn around, hang about. You must be in the thick of the action from the Goti Tour.

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