The Forgotten Sports of Neopia
The ninth annual Altador Cup is already approaching fast this year with thousands of Neopians and Neopets preparing to turn out to support their favourite teams. The tournament will surely be a massive hit creating yet another historic year of matches.
But there are many out there for whom June is just another month. Yooyuball has gained popularity since Altador was rediscovered but there are many Neopets out there whose hearts lie with other sports. They may not be part of a massive yearly tournament but they hold a very special place in Neopians' hearts.
"Gormball was the sport of choice for many Neopians for years before Yooyuball came along," said Ember, the fire faerie well known for her part in the annual Gormball Championship. "But as soon as Altador returned we were forgotten quicker than yesterday's leftovers." Sensing a feeling of bitterness I decided to speak to someone a little more cheerful: Thyassa the purple Chia.
"I think people just forget about us due to the tournament being held on the Space Station. It's a bit out of the way for most people. I think we should bring Gormball to Neopia like never before!"
For those unfamiliar with Gormball, the rules revolve around passing the Gormball between players, tactically holding on to it for long enough without you being the poor victim who gets soaked! Play continues until only one player remains, who is crowned the winner with a generous Neopoint prize.
We managed to get a group of players together so I can get a taste of the once popular game first hand. The first to go is a blue Grundo who grumbles as he walks off of the playing field, who is soon joined by Ember, who looks even angrier than when I spoke to her. The ball reaches back to me and as I am about to pass it on to Thyassa the ball explodes, leaving me soaked as the rest of the players cheer and laugh. It has been good fun although I am now soaked to the bone whilst the game wraps up, with an Alien Aisha eventually being declared the winner.
"I'm thinking next year we should rejig the tournament. Maybe replace Gormball with an entirely new version. That ALWAYS goes down well with Neopians!" The Chia nodded ferociously, with a manic smile that made this reporter leave the Space Station on the first shuttle home.
The newly rebuilt Krawk Island was my next destination. Having not been here for years I soon got lost amongst the streets of the new Warf Wharf. Asking the locals for help ended badly. Those who were friendly enough to help were surprised to hear that my destination still existed, and those who weren't friendly threatened to throw me into the sea. Eventually I came across the Deckball headquarters where I was greeted by an elderly man.
"I won the Deckball tournament, don't you know?" he repeated for the fourth time. Long since this Neopian had forgotten his name has he remembered his dazzling victory in the one, and only Deckball tournament. He now maintains a small museum in memory of his victory.
The Deckball tournament was held between a group of mysterious Neopians often referred to as 'The Neopets Team'. These Neopians organised the Krawk Cup back in what is now the ancient History of Neopia. Deckball itself is a simple game not unlike Yooyuball where two player try to score on the opposing team, although the use of the controversial 'power up' system can be traced back to this early game.
"This is a game with real skill!" the man continued. "Anyone can score goals in Yooyuball but scoring in Deckball... well, that took REAL skill!" This reporter has to agree; after facing my aged opponent I had managed to only get one goal over several games. Deckball was not an easy game to play! After losing for the eighth time I bid farewell to my opponent and set out into Neopia once more.
Tug of War
It is in the blistering heat, down the river from the famous landmark of Coltzan's shrine that I find my next group, eager to prove their sport is the best.
"Well, it's simple! You simply pull as hard as you can, and try to get your opponent to fall in the river!" said a majestic Desert Elephante with pride.
"It's more complicated than that! I mean there's strategy. I mean do you go for brute strength or try to confuse or outwit your opponent?" chipped in an Aisha. "It's all about knowing your opponent's strengths and weaknesses and try to play to that."
The city of Sakhmet looms in the distance as I have my first try at Tug of War against the Elephante who promises he'll go easy on me. Even still, within seconds I am plunged head first into the mighty river, though I can't exactly be annoyed as the water is cooling and refreshing in the desert heat. No wonder people like Tug of War around here!
I stay to watch a couple of real matches which end when the Tug of War champion, a huge mutant Grundo, beats everyone hands down. But no one is upset, there is only laughing as the sun begins to set on what has been an amazing day in the Desert.
Gourmet Club Bowls
I head back to Neopia Central for my final sport. Just down the road from the Neopian Times reporter's offices sits a building that plays host to the Gourmet Club. I know what you're thinking. Eating isn't a sport, right? Well, outside Krawk Island's Food Club, I would agree, but that's not why I have made my way here. I am here to play the game of Bowls where it was founded.
"Bowls is simple. You roll the ball and try to get yours as close to the white ball as possible," the head of the Gourmet Club began. "It was invented as a relaxing means of entertainment after another exquisite meal at the club without being too physical." He was right. The game was definitely the most relaxing of all the games I played on my trip around Neopia. And yet this didn't mean it wasn't any less competitive! We played through a tournament, which I managed to beat my first opponent narrowly by knocking their ball out of the arena with my final ball. But I lost in the second round to a Cybunny who had deadly accuracy that I couldn't possibly hope to beat. It was calm and civilised, a million miles away from the jeering noisy crowds at the Altador Cup. The people were calm and friendly with the added bonus of getting a great meal afterwards!
There are of course many more sports and games I managed to play whilst around Neopia. Some are still very well liked such as the tyrant bashing Kass Basher in the heart of Meridell or playing Beach Volleyball on the shores of Mystery Island where as some languish forgotten like Gormball or Tug of War. So when you've had enough of Yooyuball for the day, why not check out one of the other sports Neopia has to offer? This reporter has had an absolutely amazing time playing these different sports and most importantly, making new friends on the way.