Rough Ball is, most likely, the most important sport in the entire history of the planet Vulpinia. It’s history alone spans three thousand years. Every match ever played has been recorded, documented, and referenced. Right from the very first game ever played.
The development of the sport was actually used to help end an ancient war between the Vulpine and the Felanus. Not all Vulpine and Felanus races were involved in the war, mind you. But the five primary nations involved were Foxburrow, the Ocata Nation, the desert nation of Sandicia to the east, the northern tundra nation of Kanata, and the equatorial nation of Mayala had hostile actions toward each other for centuries before.
Fortunately, during that time there were those who had developed civil relations that had no affiliation to any government or crown. Yet, they tired of the constant warring between the five nations. They needed to create a contest that would do away with bloodshed. Something that could be used to salvage peace.
A group of twenty creative Vulpinians came together, using bits and pieces of sport from each nation to create something that would resemble a part of each nation. The pitch represented Foxburrow, the central most nation in the conflict. A small net to be used by a goal keeper that represented Kanata. Ten players on the field to represent the ten different races caught up in the conflict. The size and shape of the ball, to represent the ball used in a popular game in the Ocata nation. Sand semi circles near each of the two goals to represent Sandicia. And finally, no matter whether there was rain, snow or shine, the game was always to be played outdoors in the manner that those of the Mayala nation played their own games.
Now, there was a complex series of rules that needed to be made for such a game. Over the three millennium, those rules were modified and amended and changed to fit the changing times. Today, there has been a solid set of rules that has been unchanging for the last one hundred years.
The standard size of each playing field is 105 meters long by 65 meters wide. There is a center line dividing the field in half, and goals at each end. Each goal is surrounded by a 35 meter wide semi circle of sand, and each goal is five meters wide by three meters tall.
Each team has ten players on the field at all times. Five players are offensive and help direct the rush of the ball forward, while four players act as defenders and protect their own end against oncoming rushes from the opposing team. One player acts as the goal keeper and keeps within the area of the sand to guard against any attempts by the opposing team to score.
To begin each game, the center-men from each team, often called the quarterbacks, meet in the center of the field and wait for the head referee to toss up the ball. Each player would ten jump for the ball, hoping to knock it back to their own teammates. This is when the strategies of offense and defense begins. Defenders will try to tackle the ball carrier, while the ball carrier will attempt to pass the ball off to continue the rush up the field. Ball carriers can only take three steps and then must bounce the ball off the turf and catch it again. Forward, overhand passes are not allowed, but an underhand lateral back to a teammate is. A forward motion with the ball is allowed only if the ball carrier bumps the ball with the heel of their hand.
For scoring purposes there are two types. Either a ball carrier may cross the goal line with the ball and have his or her team awarded three points, or skillfull players may kick the ball through the goal posts and that team is awarded six points. In both scenarios, the goal keeper can use their net to either catch the ball if kicked, or push the player down before crossing the goal line. The net cannot be used as a weapon, either to strike at or trip up a player with the ball. These are the simple and quick rules to the game, there are many more which involve penalties, scrums, and player substitution. Suffice it to say an entire book could be written on the rules of the sport alone.
As it stands, rough ball has become the most popular sport in all of Vulpinia. There is the traditional Five Nations Cup, played every five years to commemorate the end of the war those many millennium ago. The Universities Cup, which different colleges and universities participate in each year. The Eastern and Western Leagues each have their own professional level of rough ball. And then there is the college level of play, as students from different houses have their own rough ball teams and compete against each other throughout the course of the school year.
Even the distant planet of Pau Theta II has a group of four teams that play during the regular run of the rough ball season. Sometimes, the champion of the Pau Theta League is invited to participate during the Five Nations Cup.
To become a rough baller, as it is often called, is just one of the dreams of many young Vulpine and Felanus children. The sport helped end a war on Vulpinia, and therefore it holds a great deal of tradition and honour. It brings people together in a way nothing else ever has. Even the smallest community has a rough ball pitch, where spectators bring out lawn chairs and small picnic lunches to watch a match or two. Naturally, some of the grandest stadiums are in the largest centers on the planet, such as Ocata Stadium, the Fox Den or the Mayala Bowl. Those three alone can seat over one hundred thousand fans each.
So when citizens of Vulpinia talk about rough ball, they aren’t just engaged in idle chatter. It’s very important to them, because it plays such a large role in their lives.