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Three-time Pok-Ta-Pok World Champions Ek’ Balam Belize ready to defend crown in World Cup in Orange Walk from December 7-10

Posted: Friday, December 1, 2023. 5:54 pm CST.

Ek’ Balam Belize when they won the 2021 Pok-Ta-Pok World Cup in Mérida, Mexico – Photo Credit: Ek’ Balam Belize

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Three-time World Champions of the Ancestral Mayan Ball Game Pok-Ta-Pok, Ek’ Balam Belize (Belize Black Jaguars), have been training hard to defend their crown in the 5th World Cup,  which will be held in Belize for the first time ever this month.

Ek’ Balam Manager Menalio Novelo Sr recounts that Ek’ Balam Belize placed third in the first World Cup held in Pisté, Yucatán, Mexico in 2015. At the time they had just learnt the game from their Mexican counterparts. Ek’ Balam improved their game exponentially and won the next three Pok-Ta-Pok World Cups consecutively. They won the second World Cup celebrated in Guatemala City in 2017, repeated the feat in 2019 in San Salvador, and three-peated in 2021 in Mérida. Everytime more teams have been competing including one from the United States.

“This tournament in Belize will be the fifth Cup, and God-willing we can win our fourth Cup,” Novelo told Breaking Belize News.

“But the competition will be tight.”

The Pok-Ta-Pok World Cup Organizing Committee has the support of the Government through the Belize Tourism Board which constructed the Ts’unu’un Pok-Ta-Pok Ball Court at Jardín Pachamama on the Yo Creek – San Lazaro Road in the Orange Walk District specifically to host the World Cup and is financing the tournament to the tune of $220,000.

Belie now has two teams as Felicita Cantun, who used to be part of the Ek’ Balam Belize team formed her own team, Kinich Ahau (Sun god).

Ek’ Balam Belize in July during traditional Maya ceremony – (Photo Credit: Ek’ Balam Belize)

Thirteen teams from seven countries will be competing in the fifth Pok-Ta-Pok World Cup to be held in Orange Walk from December 7-10, 2023. The tournament will feature two teams each from Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Panama, and one from the United States.

The draw held in Mérida on Friday, November 17, placed the defending World Cup champions, Ek’ Balam Belize in Group 2, the Black group, along with Honduras’ Gualcarque, Mexico’s San Pedro, Guatemala’s Ajpopab Tzutujil, Panama 2, El Salvador’s Kuskatan, and the United States.

Kinich Ahau will compete in Group 1, the White group, against El Salvador’s Kuscatan 1, Panama #1, Guatemala’s Ukotzijal Ajpú, Honduras’ Ulúa, and Mexico’s Southeast Selection.

The two groups will play round robins with the top two teams qualifying for the semifinals. The  winners of the semifinals qualify to the final. The two losing teams play for third place.

The Pok-Ta-Pok World Cup is organized by the Central American and Caribbean Ancestral Mayan Ballgame Association (ACCDAPM).


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