Algerians revive ancestral game, marking spring

In the Algerian highlands, villagers have revived an ancestral game called “thakourth” to celebrate the arrival of spring.

This traditional sport, reminiscent of hockey, is passed down through generations and serves as a symbol of joy and community.

“We’ve inherited this game from our Amazigh ancestors,” explains 22-year-old Sid Ahmed Yettou, referring to the indigenous Berber people. 

“We play it every year at the start of spring, seven times throughout May.”

Thakourth, which translates to “ball,” is a cherished tradition. 

“It’s passed down from father to son,” says 68-year-old Rabeh Zaghmim. 

“Today, we’re teaching it to our young ones,” he adds, beaming at children enjoying the game.

Historically played across North Africa by the Amazigh people, thakourth features regional variations. 

Teams use curved wooden sticks to maneuver a woven ball made of twigs, called a “koura.”

Played on vast fields, unlike field hockey, players can catch and throw the ball with their hands to score.

“This game is an extension of nature,” explains heritage researcher Radhia Beljedoui. 

“It symbolizes joy and welcomes spring’s arrival.”

Villagers like Omar Darbal, 50, actively participate in the tradition. 

“I make the ball from heather twigs,” he says, “one for each week we play during spring.”

While direct contact is forbidden, the games can get spirited as players strike each other’s sticks. 

But locals see it as a positive outlet. “Some villagers might not see each other for a year,” says Omar Hamadouch, 76. 

“If there are problems, they make up here.”

Thakourth transcends being just a game; it’s a celebration of spring, a community bonding experience, and a way to settle differences, ensuring harmony as the new season unfolds.

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