Lelo Burti: Georgia's Traditional Folk Sport

Mae Walsh-Zamanbayova
Winners celebrate as they cross the goal line during the annual Lelo match on Easter Sunday in the village of Shukhuti, Georgia, April 8, 2018. REUTERS/David Mdzinarishvili

Lelo Burti is a sporting event held annually in Shukhuti, a village in the Guria region of Georgia. On Orthodox Easter Sunday, which this year fell on the 16th of April, people from all over Georgia come together to celebrate this 300-year-old full-contact ball game. 


Lelo is played by hundreds of local men who form two teams, Upper Shukhuti and Lower Shukhuti. A 16kg ball is blessed by the local priest, and the game begins! The aim is to push the heavy ball over your team's goal line (represented by two local streams). Players form a massive scrum that can spread throughout the village and last for hours. 


Once victory has been achieved, the winning team carries the ball to the cemetery and places it on the grave of someone who passed away the previous year. 


The game honours the dead, exhausts the players, and provides hours of entertainment to the spectators.