Balloon World Cup: Gerard Pique organises first event

Balloon World Cup: Watch as Francesco de la Cruz is crowned first champion

If you say you’ve never played it, you’re lying.

The game that requires only a balloon, and with the simplest of rules – do not let it touch the floor. And now, it has an official World Cup.

Yes, you read that correctly – the Balloon World Cup.

Organised by Barcelona and former Spain centre-back Gerard Pique and internet celebrity Ibai Llanos, the inaugural tournament took place in Tarragona, Spain, on Thursday, with Peru’s Francesco de la Cruz being crowned the very first balloon world champion.

The tournament took place on an 8m x 8m court, which had living room furniture as obstacles.

And a small car.

“It’s been amazing, it’s something totally different. Sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone and try new things,” said Pique, for whom this is not the first sporting venture away from the football pitch – he was also behind the World Cup-style overhaul of the Davis Cup.external-link

The tournament was inspired by a series of viral videos from the Arrendondo family from Oregon, United States, with siblings Antonio, Diego and Isabel playing the game during Covid-19 lockdown and posting the fun on Tik-Tok.

Antonio and Diego teamed up to play in the World Cup, with teams from 32 countries taking part.

“We played the game as kids, and then, during the start of quarantine for Covid, we wanted to play it again,” Antonio said.

“We started arguing with each other over if it hit the ground or not, so we started taking videos in slow-mo to see if it did, and then finally it got to the point of let’s post this video of us on Tik-Tok.

“When I woke up the next morning it was completely viral, like a million likes, and then after that we just decided to keep playing and played more and more until one of our rounds got the attention of Ibai and Pique.”

De la Cruz, who beat German Jan Spiess 6-2 in the final, said: “I am very, very happy, I thank God that I have been able to achieve this.”

What will be next – a Balloon D’Or?

Francesco de la Cruz is the inaugural Balloon World Cup champion
Morocco's Yahya El Hajouji in action with Sweden's Nicklas Hallback during the Balloon World Cup
Morocco’s Yahya El Hajouji in action with Sweden’s Nicklas Hallback
Germany's Jan Spiess in action with Colombia's Tarik during the Balloon World Cup
Germany’s Jan Spiess competing against Colombia’s Tarik
Gerard Pique, his wife Shakira and their children at the Balloon World Cup
Gerard Pique, his wife Shakira and their children

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