Cycle Ball: Brief explanation of the sport

Cycle Ball, referred to in Japanese as “Cycle Soccer,” can be played either as a two-on-two indoor sport or as a five-on-five outdoor sport. In Japan, the two-on-two version is more common.

The bicycles used in this sport have fixed gears and no brakes, so that players can move backwards by peddling backwards. The handlebars are reminiscent of a deer’s horns, but they are designed to be able to rotate through a full 360 degrees, allowing for rapid turns and sharp shots on goal.

The rules are almost the same as those for soccer, except that matches are played in two 7 minute halves, for a total of 14 minutes. The court is 11 meters wide and 14 meters long, surrounded by a fence about 30 cm high. The ball is 17 or 18 cm in diameter, and weighs between 500 and 600 grams. The ball is made of cloth, and is stuffed with kapok or other such material so that it does not bounce very much.

The rules of the game

Match time

First half (7 minutes) → Break (2 minutes) → Second half (7 minutes)

How the game is played

Before the game, there is a coin-toss (or a game of rock-paper-scissors) to decide which team starts first, and the play starts with a kick-off from the center of the court, at the referee’s whistle.

Players must keep their hands on the handlebars and their feet on the pedals, except when both wheels are in their defensive penalty area, when they can use their hands freely to punch or catch the ball like a goal keeper in soccer. (However, it is a violation if both players enter area at the same time.)

It is also an offence if a player continues to play after ‘dismounting’ (falling or touching the floor with his feet). The other rules are more or less the same as normal soccer.

Regaining the right to play

A player that has dismounted can rejoin the play by crossing the base line next to his own goal.


The rules regarding violations are not particularly difficult. Violations include pushing, holding and dangerous actions, as well as shouting.

Free kicks

Free kicks are awarded to the other team for violations that take place outside of the penalty area.
When violations occur, the players from the offending team must move at least 4 meters away from the ball.

Penalty kicks

Penalty kicks, also known as “4 meter kicks” are awarded for the kinds of serious violations listed below. The ball is placed on the penalty spot, from where a player from the team that was fouled can shoot directly at the goal.

1.When a player commits a violation inside his defensive penalty area
2.When a player commits a serious violation (dangerous actions such as throwing their bicycle or controlling the ball or interfering with an opponent’s play despite being separated from their bicycle), regardless of whether the violation takes place inside or outside of the penalty area.

Corner kicks
The rules for corner kicks are basically the same as soccer, except that the fact that the court is surrounded by a fence means that the ball is placed in a slightly different position.

The origin of the sport, and the history of the world championships

The idea for cycle polo was first conceived in England around 1891. The idea developed into a sport, and by 1918 cycle ball was being played outside on grass using normal soccer balls in Germany and France. The sport then evolved further as bicycles were developed with more responsive steering, eventually moving indoors where games are not at the mercy of weather conditions.

The first European Championships were held in Köln (Cologne), Germany in 1927. The sport was then recognized as an official sport by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) in 1930, and the first Indoor Cycling World Championships were held in Leipzig (Germany) later that year. The championships were interrupted by the Second World War, but resumed again in 1949, and have been held ever since.

Cycle Ball in Japan

The first attempts to popularize Cycle Ball in Japan were made in 1957 by Joshiro Hayashi and others of the Japan Intercollegiate Cycling Federation (JICF). (Hayashi was Vice-Chairman of JICF at the time.) However, the sport failed to take root until ten years later, when the Cycle Ball Research and Development Committee was formally inaugurated by the Japan Cycling Federation (JCF) in 1967, centered on Kiyoshi Ebisawa and Seiichiro Nomoto. Cycle Ball organizations began to take shape, and in Japan, the sport became known as “Cycle Soccer,” due to its similarities with soccer, which is familiar in Japan. As the sport became more popular, the organization asked to play a role in providing technical guidance to various groups, such as Nihon Keirin Gakkou, JICF, and the Minami-Kanto Jitensha Kyogi-kai. The first joint training sessions for students and others were held in 1968, which lead to the first All Japan University Cycle Ball Championships, which were held the following year in 1969 with the participation of eight universities from East and West Japan.

In 1972, Japan sent its first team to the World Championships, which managed to secure third place in Group B. Japan then sent a team to the World Championships every year. The Japanese teams played well, occasionally winning Group B and gaining automatic promotion to Group A, only to be demoted back to Group B the next time.

At the 2007 World Championships, Japan won its relegation tournament to advance to Group A for the first time since the establishment of relegation tournaments, which determine which teams would advance to the higher group and which teams would be relegated to a lower group. Japan then went on to come fifth in Group A among six countries at the 2008 World Championships. This was Japan’s best result ever, ensuring that they retained their position in Group A and demonstrating the high standard that Japan has reached.

Since its inauguration, the watchword for the JFIC has been to “Hold a world championship in Japan!.” This came to fruition when the 2001 World Championships were held in Kagoshima Prefecture with the cooperation of the Kaseda Municipal Government. The next year, in 2002, the 5th Asian Championships were held in Shonanmachi in Chiba Prefecture in conjunction with the ‘Asian Stage of the World Cup’, the preliminary round for the First Cycle Ball World Cup. Since then, the Asian stage of the World Cup has been held three more times in Japan (twice in Osaka and then in Tokyo), and is scheduled to be held in Oita in August 2009.

There are currently about 200 active players around the country, and JFIC’s policy is to hold further international tournaments in Japan in order to foster advanced techniques, and to put energy into promotional activities to increase the number of players.


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