When New Zealand teacher Tim Singleton met Norwegian Esben Mikels in an expat bar in Phnom Penh, neither man took much of a liking to each other, they admit.
“We got into an argument over something small – I can’t remember what,” Singleton laughs. Their bad humour dissolved into banter and the two touched upon a mutual passion for the sport of Crossticks. Both men, heavily involved in their home clubs, wanted to start it in Cambodia.
“It’s the kind of thing that only needs a patch of grass and the equipment and you’re set to go – and kids love it,” Singleton says of the sport, which has a small but passionate following in Scotland, Germany, Norway, Australia and New Zealand.
Now the field sport will make its first foray into Cambodia, with Crossticks training under way and the development of the Crossticks National Over-15s team.
“Cambodians don’t know what they’re missing out on,” Mellem says. “It’s a simple game – it has hardly changed from when it was first played in the Middle Ages, except now we don’t wear fur on the feet.”
Apart from providing a rigorous workout, the game requires complex strategy and spatial awareness, Singleton says, and inspires fierce team loyalty and demanding post-game drinking activities.
“We spent months fundraising with events back home, now we have some donations from sporting NGOs,” Singleton says.
Played in two teams of seven, the field sport uses sticks and three different sized balls. Similar in shape to the broom used in the Scottish sport of curling, the Crosstick is held in both hands, with a leg on either side of the stick. The smallest of the balls, the puck-like ‘lock’ is slid around the field.
“The most unusual thing about the sport is probably that one doesn’t use the stick for hitting the lock,” Mikels explains. Players run with the Crossticks, rather like the children’s game of “horsey”.
With broom-like sticks, the game is sometimes thought to be the inspiration for the imaginary sport of quidditch from the Harry Potter series.
The men have had difficulty recruiting young players so far, but say they are confident it will take off as more some to watch the matches. First game? April 1.