Uppies and Doonies, Scotland

The Uppies and Doonies compete in the New Year's Ba' game, Kirkwall, Orkney Islands © joeri-c

Now this is the way to keep warm over Christmas and New Year! By bundling together with several hundred burly menfolk, cramming into narrow streets in pursuit of a wee ball. Teams in this mass game of football are pretty much unlimited, and rules all-but nonexistent (hands are used more than feet).

The ‘Ba’ game, as it’s called, takes place twice, once on Christmas Day and again on New Year’s Day in Kirkwall, on the Orkney Islands.

On one side are the Uppies (Up-the-Gates) and the Doonies, (Doon-the-Gates), and in theory you’re assigned a team and a goal according to which side of town you’re from, though outsiders can join in too.

The Doonies’ goal is the sea, while the Uppies must get around Mackinson’s corner. Once a goal has been scored, an individual is also declared the winner – and then he promptly has to invite all the players around to his for drinks!

The tradition is thought to date back to Roman times, when mass games of street ball were more common.
You can read more on the game’s history here, and see more pictures here.

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