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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Motorball: The Soviet sport you have probably never heard of

Motorball (sometimes also called Motoball) is a sport that apparently was invented in France in 1934 but that became most popular in the USSR after it was introduced there in 1937. The game was (and is) a version of soccer with the players on, you guessed it, motorcycles. Very fats paced, very entertaining and very dangerous.

The sport was played in all 15 Soviet republics and had both national and regional leagues and teams. It continues to be played in many former republics -- as well as on a smaller scale in some other countries -- though its glory days of the 60s and 70s have come and gone.

From Soviet Life May, 1968:


Who are they? Soccer players who are bored with running on their own two legs and who are now using motorcycles? Or, on the contrary, cyclists who've started up a friendly game of soccer-in -the-saddle?

Neither one!

They are motor soccer players, a tribe who has decided to enrich one of the world's most popular games with the latest achievements of engineering. Motorized soccer is a game where absolutely everything must be done on motorcycle. It is played on a standard soccer field, and the players try to score through standard goalposts. The ball is much larger than the one used in soccer -- it's 16 inches in diameter, but don't think that makes it any easier to play with.

Each team has five men: a goalie, one defense man and three forwards. The ball is propelled by means of foot, head or motorcycle. The goalie can use his hands to make a save, but as with the other players, he is not allowed to lose contact with his cycle for a single moment. The rules do not allow opposing players to transgress the out- of- bounds zone in front of the goal .

Motorball is a young sport. It was first played in the Soviet Union in 1937 when Dmitri Popov, head of the motorcycle section of Moscow's Institute of Physical Culture, organized two student teams. Now this is an countrywide affair with championships in all 15 republics at city and town level .

Many experts say motorball is here to stay. There is no doubt that it has certain advantages over soccer. First, cycles go faster; second, it's technically superior; third, the boos of the fans are easily drowned out by the roar of the motors. At any rate motorball fans say that basketball, rugby, lapta ( Russian kind of baseball ) and volleyball will all become motorized. The next step will be copterball.

Yuri Somov took these pictures during a championship game between the all-star teams of Moscow and Leningrad.


What a shame that, to the best of my knowledge, there never were motorcycle basketball or volleyball games!



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