Valencian pelota (Pilota Valenciano) is a traditional handball sport played in the Valencian region of Spain
Whilst its origins are not known, it is commonly supposed to have been derived from the medieval Parisian Jeu de paume along with several other European handball sports
Being played by low-class people and high-class nobles, Valencian pilota was very popular but in June 1391, the Valencia City Council fruitlessly forbade it to be played on the streets. This resulted in many trinquets (courtfields) to be created
Later on, nobles abandoned the handball game in favour of ‘cleaner’ sports and so pilota became the game of the middle and lower classes
Nowadays, the popularity of this sport is rising again and the game is played in the whole Valencian Community with each area having its preferred variety. Professional players are often hired to play at the trinquets or in streets during the towns festivals
There are two basic versions of the sport depending whether it is played outdoors in a designated street or indoors at a trinquet, but along with the basic set of rules for either street or indoor pilota, there are many different variations, some of them are played only locally, but most of them are played in wider areas
Variations of the game played in the street are Galotxa, Llargues and Raspall. The streets must be long and wide and if the streets have some irregularities, such as balconies, lights, sidewalks, traffic signals, etc., they may be used in order to score. Some municipalities have built “fake streets” which look like real ones but are meant only for pilota games.
Indoor games are played in the trinquet, a four walled court with stairs on one side and maybe galleries for the spectators to sit. There is normally a bottom balcony where reputed people or professional betters may sit, similar to a box in other stadiums
Every version of the game uses its own kind of ball. Each kind is different in weight, size, the way it bounces and other aspects. They are all handmade by specialized craft workers. Some balls are very big and heavy and cannot bounce, others are soft with a very irregular bounce, and there are very fast balls covered with either leather or goats skin
Betting is inherent to the sport in its professional version and it is arguably the main factor which has kept the game alive.The two teams dress either with red or blue shirts. Bets are made for one color winning, for a certain margin of victory points, or for an expected way to score each particular point. Remarkably high amounts of money may be bet during relevant games involving famous players. The more famous players become, the more betting is involved and consequently the more money they can earn.