Do you play Pétanque?


For the French in me, nothing spells summer or vive l’été, aside from the fragrance of my Tahitian Monoi, than the provincial flavors of Pissaladière with a side of Salade Nicoise and to top is off a Sorbet Cassis all this while enjoying a game of Pétanque even as a spectator sipping on a Ricard Pastis. In France, Pétanque and Pastis go hand in hand!

Pétanque is a jeu de boules and a big part of the French lifestyle, especially in the South of France where it was born. Men and women gather for hours to play a game of Pétanque. It looks like a simple game, but some players can be very serious and competitive, especially the old-timers since Pétanque is also a competitive national tournament game. Overall though, it’s a friendly, easy game for everyone and a relaxing way to enjoy an afternoon.

This game has gained much popularity over the years and conquered America as well as many parts of the world where there are many Pétanque Associations and Clubs in over 48 countries. The FPUSA is the Federation of Pétanque USA the official USA organization affiliated with the International Pétanque Federation. If you live in the states you can join a local Pétanque Club in your city.

There are also major regional, national, and world Pétanque tournaments held every year. In France the most well known world championships takes place every July in Marseille – Mondial La Marseillaise à Pétanque. Although Pétanque is not currently an Olympic sport the Confédération Mondiale des Sports de Boules has been lobbying the Olympic committee since 1985 to make the game part of the summer Olympics especially for the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympic games.

Tu tires ou tu pointes?

So first things first, do you play Pétanque and how do you play the game? Well to start you’ll need a set of Pétanque boules. Each set comes with 6 boules and a small target ball also called le cochonnet (little piglet). The word Pétanque comes from the Provence language expression “pieds tanqués” which is derived from the verb “tanquer” or to anchor/ tie down. Therefore, players have to have their feet firmly planted on the ground or the terrain and take no steps when shooting or throwing their boules.

The game objective is simple to score points by having the boules as close as possible to the target ball or cochonnet, so the first move is to throw the target ball after a coin toss to start the game. The strategy of the players then is to place their boules closer or to knock out of the way their opponents’ boules.

There are techniques that the seasoned, skilled player uses, such as tirer or pointer. There are shooter and pointers in the game. To shoot is to aim for the opponent’s boule to knock it out and dislodge it out of the way to replace that boule. When done correctly end accurately, It is the perfect play and called a “carreau“. To point on the other hand is to throw your boule so that it lands in a specific tactical spot.

In the end of the partie, a piece of thread or measuring tape is often used to measure up to the millimeter to identify the winner. It takes focus, dexterity, and accuracy, but overall, it doesn’t hurt to have lady luck on your side!

Alors, “Tu tires ou tu pointes?” Be sure to score a point or two or else you’ll end up with 0-13 or une Belle Fanny!

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French Culture & Lifestyle in the USA

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