Jugger Tournament Unusual sport attracts international guests to Bonn

Bonn · The pompfe and the jug are important components of jugger. A tournament of this unusual sport, developed by German students, took place in Bonn. A team from France was also there - and the GA.

 Things get heated on the jugger field, but there's no hard hitting with the pompfe.

Things get heated on the jugger field, but there's no hard hitting with the pompfe.

Foto: Stefan Knopp

There's now a Baller (six-a-side indoor football) league on TV. So when will that happen with the Jugger League? They're working on it, says David Grouls, a member of Bonn's Flying Juggmen. There's already a national federation in Germany, and they're trying to get more recognition for the sport. Grouls is optimistic that TV coverage will come naturally. "We don't get stressed out about it," he says.

If you hear drumming, get ready for the jugglers. The drum beats out of the loudspeaker every second, you hear the referee counting down: "3 - 2 - 1 jugger" and the two teams, run from behind their own base line towards each other. There are five people on each side, four of them are wielding a so-called Pompfe, and one is the runner. The runner's job is to get the jug, a sausage-like ball, into the opponent’s goal.

Pompfe are foam-padded clubs that resemble weapons, although they are not described as such. There is a short, one-handed club used with a shield, then a long version, a sort of fighting stick with padding at both ends, and a foam chain with a soft ball at the end. The aim is to avoid injuring each other, and you can get penalised by the team of four referees if you do. It's more about speed than brawn, says Grouls, who describes the sport as a cross between American football and fencing. But there are other elements too.

Tournament in Bonn with international guests

So far, there aren't enough spectators to warrant television coverage. At the weekend, the Jugger Bonn/Rhein-Sieg club, of which the Flying Juggmen are the professional team, organised two tournaments in the sports hall of the Tannenbusch school centre: the William Kid's Landrattenregatta on Saturday and the first Spring Cup with teams from Bonn, Cologne, Essen and Paris on Sunday.

The stands were not exactly full. In fact, on Sunday the athletes were among themselves. On Saturday, four junior teams - two from Bonn and one each from Cologne and Essen - played against each other, their parents watching from the side-lines. The sport, which originated in Germany and now has international fans, teams and a world championship, deserves more attention, the players say.

Fairness is an important element. "The sport is based on trust and truth," says Grouls. If you are hit by an opponent's Pompfe, you stop moving and kneel down. A hit with the chain results in eight seconds of punishment, the others get five seconds. Players count down themselves, with one hand behind their back. If you are pinned by your opponent, the penalty is longer. So you have to try and clear the way for your own runner. "It's important to have an overview of the field," explains Jonas, who coaches the children's and youth teams at the club.

German students invented the sport

It takes time to get the hang of it and to be able to interpret your opponents' tactics and moves. Jonas has been playing with the Flying Juggmen for ten years and sees a system in what the teams do on the pitch. Things are hectic, jugger is a fast sport. A team is one player down: they should spread out along a line to prevent the opposing runner from getting through, says Jonas. Instead, the players engage in one-on-one battles - and the round is quickly decided.

Jugger was developed by German students based on a post-apocalyptic action film from Australia: "The Blood of Heroes." The trashy 1989 flick is a must-see for any Jugger. "We organise a club film night every three months," says Grouls. That way, newcomers can see where the rules and the Pompfe come from.

Trust, team spirit, individual ability: For tournament director Paula Goralski, it is an ideal mix. "The team spirit in the community is great." She knows a lot of Jugger players in Germany and can always get in touch with them and stay with them at short notice it she's in the vicinity. For player Michael, it's the fun of the sport, but also a certain affinity with LARP, live-action role-playing, that appeals to him. He is a roleplayer, so it matches. So it was not by chance that the general public got to know Jugger at the FeenCon, the roleplaying convention in Bonn, back then on a meadow behind the city hall of Bad Godesberg.

Original text: Stefan Knopp

Translation: Jean Lennox

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