The little history of Pétanque

Pétanque is a boule game that was invented in France in 1907.

At the time, we played “la longue” also known as “Provençal game” (from the Provence region in France).

It was about gaining momentum to throw a boule far enough (18 to 20 meters) to bring it closer to a “goal”  = more popular “jack”.

However one day, a champion of this game (Jules Hugues whose nickname was “the Black”), who could no longer run because of rheumatism problems: had the idea of drawing a circle on the ground and throwing his ball with “feet together”, at a more reasonable distance (5-6 meters).

Feet joined is said in Provençal dialect: “pè tanca”, thus giving in French the expression “play pétanque”: that is to say with the feet anchored on the ground, as opposed to the Provençal game where the player can gain momentum.

This “first game” of pétanque took place on one of the grounds of the café “la boule étoilée” in the town of La Ciotat, near Marseille (named in a nod : to the studded boules of the time)

The owners of the café (two brothers called Ernest and Joseph Pitiot) quickly understood the benefit of developing this sport, in particular Ernest who worked hard to finalize the rules.

The “Petanque” was born !

However, it was not until the first official competition in La Ciotat in 1910 that the word “pétanque” was made official.

Today, the official rules are decreed by the FIPJP – Fédération Internationale de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal.

Studded balls like those with which we played at the birth of pétanque, at the beginning of the 20th century. AFP/Boris Horvat
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