The New York Times about Lelo Burti, Georgian folk game
10 May, 2019
The New York Times about Lelo Burti, Georgian folk game
The New York Times has recently dedicated an article to the Georgian folk game Lelo Burti. The author of the article Andrew Keh writes about Lelo Burti played in Shukhuti village, Guria (western Georgia). The article ‘A Wine-Soaked Ball Unites a Georgian Village, but Only After Dividing It’ starts with the main item of the game - the black leather ball. Lelo Burti was as inscribed by the government of Georgia as a "nonmaterial monument" of culture
in 2014.

“Every spring in the village of Shukhuti, in western Georgia, a single black, leather ball is sewn together to play Lelo Burti, a brutally physical folk game — a singular blend of a large-scale rugby match and an even larger street fight — that was once popular all around the region of Guria but is now only played here, once a year, on Orthodox Easter.”
lelo_burti
After the game, the ball is given to the winning team who will then go to the grave of their choice to honor that person’s memory. According to one of the players Vakhtang Torotadze, the ball symbolizes victory and respect.

The two teams of upper and lower Shukhuti oppose each other during the game. There are no rules or boundaries, women are also allowed to play but they rarely do. The only trophy is the ball but the pride and the honor last for generations. The game is usually followed by a Georgian feast shared between both teams.
lelo_burti_feast
‘The men ate boundless quantities of meat, drank wine and chacha, the Georgian grape liquor, and raised toasts every few minutes: to Georgia and its occupied regions, to the deceased, to the sick, to the country’s women, to the next generation, to the past players of Lelo Burti and those who keep it alive today.’

Source: A Wine-Soaked Ball Unites a Georgian Village, but Only After Dividing It

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