What is tejo? The topic heading says sport so ... surely that’s football, rugby, maybe cricket at a push?
Chances are that if you’re not Colombian you’ve never heard of tejo, and even if you are Colombian you may never have actually played it.
Yet tejo could well be, at least from my perspective as a “professional” foreigner in this country, the greatest sport never seen around the world.
Throwing heavy metal objects? Check. Explosions? Check. Beer for the competitors? Check. What is this magical, explosive activity I can hear you asking?
Tejo began life over 500 years ago amongst the Chibcha people of Cundinamarca and Boyacá in the central-west highlands of what is now Colombia. In modern Colombia only football is followed with more passion and enthusiasm than tejo: it was declared a national sport in 2000 and there are professional tejo teams throughout the country.
So how do you play? Here is my 5 step guide to tejo-success (if you’re not actually in Colombia you may have a few difficulties, the illegality of gunpowder for one!):
1) Find a tejo hall (outside Colombia an area of open ground far from your nearest school or government building, but possibly within running distance of a hospital, should be sufficient.) Or your living room (with parental permission).
2) You will need: 1 bocín – a steel circle set in a bed of clay; several tejos – a metal disc weighing about 700g.; as many mechas as you think you need – mechas are folded triangles of paper filled with gunpowder.
3) Place 2 mechas against the steel circle and select a tejo which feels comfortable in your hand.
4) Stand about 15ft. from the bocín (you can be closer or further away depending on your confidence level.)
5) Throw your tejo underarm at the bocín, aiming at the mechas.
Points are awarded in different ways depending on who you are playing with, but the basic aim is to land your tejo inside the metal circle, as close to the mechas as possible, a bit like bowls but with the risk of minor burns! The real goal is to blow up a mecha with a direct hit (harder than it sounds!) This will win you the round.
You can play as individuals, in teams or alone for practice (the last option may result in ridicule from passers-by). The important thing is to have fun...and make as many loud explosions as possible!
Tejo halls are loud, hot, and slightly hazardous places. This is due to the space-saving practice of having players stand at opposite ends of the room to the next-door lane – in other words, as you are about to throw your tejo there may be a very loud bang from a direct hit about 2 ft. to your left. This may result in a minor fright, ringing ears or, worst-case scenario, a spilt drink. It takes nerves of steel not to flinch!
So...tejo. The greatest sport you’ve never heard of? A more dangerous version of darts? The reason why Colombia is officially the nation with the worst hearing in South America*? All I know is that if tejo doesn’t appear at London 2012 I have officially lost my faith in humanity.
*This may not actually be true. I tried to ask a professional to check but he didn’t hear me.