June 3, 2010 / 8:22 AM / 9 years ago

Cycle soccer hopes World Cup fever will help the sport

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - There are no Lionel Messi’s, Cristiano Ronaldo’s, nor any Wayne Rooney’s in this World Cup, but the heat is on as teams around the world practice ahead of the World Cycle Ball Championship in Germany this year.

Cycle Ball, also know as cycle soccer or radball, is not new.

It dates back to the end of the 19th century, with laborers who wanted to play polo but couldn’t afford horses.

Now the game has become popular in many parts of Europe and Japan, where it was introduced 40 years ago.

Ko Matsuda has been playing the game since he was 18 and has represented Japan seven times at the annual world championships.

“Cycle soccer allows us to enjoy the fun of riding a bicycle and the emotions of a ball game, at the same time,” Matsuda told Reuters television.

The Indoor Cycling World Championships will be staged in Stuttgart, November 26-28, 2010.

There are only around 200 competitive cycle soccer players in Japan, according to the Japan Federation of Indoor Cycling website, but they hope the World Cup fever generated in South Africa starting June will help bring attention to their sport.

But there are some obvious differences between the sports.

Cycle soccer lasts a total of 14 minutes and while it is scored exactly like soccer and only the goal keeper can touch the ball with their hands, the big difference is no one is allowed to touch the ball with their feet, only with the wheels of a specialized bicycle.

Teams are also very small, usually just two members.

“I also love bicycles, so I couldn’t believe people played soccer on their bicycles,” said 40-year old Tokyo resident Yukinobu Mogaki as he watched Japanese players practice on Thursday ahead of the Asian stage of the world championship.

Takuma Tanikawa, a student at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, is a newcomer to the game but was hooked immediately after he first came across it as a freshman.

“When I started, I really got into this sport because in only one hour I was able to ride the bicycle and in another month I made indescribable progress,” the 21-year old Tanikawa said.

Reporting by Michael Perry

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