Inaugural Balloon World Cup Pits Athletes Diving in the Living Room to Keep it Aloft
We’ve all been there before: There’s a party, balloons are around, one person starts trying to keep the gently falling spheres from hitting the floor—this desire spreads through everyone in the room until moms and dads start trying to break up the fun after a child knocks over a piece of furniture.
Yes, balloon-keepy-upy is a fun past time, but a TikTok video of a brother and sister playing the game during quarantine has spawned an international sporting tournament with a hilarious level of seriousness.
The inaugural Balloon World Cup was won by Peru, who beat Germany 6-2 in the final in front of a sold-out crowd and 8 million twitch streamers tuning in—about 4 million more than watched the Pay Per View mega-boxing event of Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao.
32 nations took part in the game, including Antonio and Diego Arredondo, two brothers from Oregon who, along with their sister Isabel, provided the inspiration for the game with their viral video on social media.
“We played the game as kids, and then, during the start of quarantine for COVID, we wanted to play it again,” Antonio Arredondo told Reuters.
He explained that in order to ensure the siblings knew who allowed the balloon to touch the floor, they began to use slow -motion cameras, making their diving-across-the-sofa saves all the more dramatic.
Among those who enjoyed their video was celebrity Spanish sports streamer Ibai Llanos, and central defender for Barcelona FC and Spain, Gerard Pique—who noted if Llanos’ tweet about how the Arredondo’s balloon game should have its own World Cup got 50k retweets, Pique would organize the tournament himself. It got way more than 50k.
At the highest level
This revolution in sport is played in an 8×8 meter court encased in glass, filled with living room furniture to simulate the real thing. The rules are simple: Athletes strike the balloon in any manner they want, so long as it’s made to travel straight or up (no spiking allowed); then it’s their opposition’s turn to keep it up. If it strikes the floor, a point is earned.
Pique organized it for Tarragona, Peru, and even managed to secure some high-value sponsorship, which became obvious in the later rounds when a Renault hatchback was parked without explanation in the center of the playing field.
Llanos provided the commentary, which if one closes their eyes, is just as adrenaline-filled as soccer commentary. All the matches are neatly and expertly organized on Llanos’ YouTube channel, and the highlights provide wild fun.
Similar to the real World Cup, a German was in the final. But it was to the host nation’s supreme joy that the home town hero, Francesco De La Cruz emerged as the first-ever champion after beating his opponent Jan Spiess.
“I am very, very happy, I thank God that I have been able to achieve this,” said the Peruvian teenager.
Hilariously to those reading who watch soccer, VAR was employed throughout the tournament, and a veteran La Liga referee was called upon to officiate the matches who repeatedly drew a small box in the air to consult the slow-motion replay.
Pique was in the commentary box, offering his opinion as if he were some kind of expert on the nascent sport.