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Picigin Guide

Croazia, Croazia


Picigin game is a ball game originating from Split, originated in the shallow sea waters of Bacvice, the most popular sandy beach in the eastern part of the city. It is very little known game in the world but it is one of the true uniqueness of Split city. It is pronounced “pih-tsih-gheen” and it was played for the first time in 1908 by a group of Split students studying in Prague. This game is always played on sandy beaches as it consists of a lot of running, tumbling, falling and water splashing in very shallow waters. Rules of picigin are quite easy to describe, but the spirit of the game can only be experienced, so until you see or try the game your selves at the famous Split beach Bacvice, you will not know exactly what the game is about.


In 1908, three years before football was introduced in the region, Split students returning from studies in Prague brought an “unusual” game called water-polo to Split beach Bacvice. But as the sea level on the Bacvice beach is pretty low, it was not possible for them to play water-polo, as it was supposed to be played. It is believed that the unsuccessful attempts of playing water-polo at the shallow waters on the Bacvice beach eventually evolved into the game we today know as Picigin. Since WWI picigin has been played at Bacvice with more or less unchanged rules. The name of the game, according to the very well known Split writer and passionate player of Picigin Anatolij Kudrjavcev, originates from the musical expression pizzicato, which means “twitch wires with fingers”.

How the game is played

Picigin is a collective game that is played in low waters normally to the ankle (rarely up to the waist), and partially on the land. Number of players is not strictly defined (as well as gender and age) although the optimal effect is achieved with 5 participants. As a rule, the players pass the ball only with one stroke of the palm of one hand. The size of the ball is 5-10 cm in diameter, and weight is 50-150 g. With constant hitting they try to keep the ball in the air as long as they can, before it hits the sea or the land. Apart from simple passing and keeping ball in the air the true spirit of picigin reflects in the acrobatics that participants perform, and which is also one goal of the game. One of the greatest particularities of picigin is that the players (piciginaši) do not play one against the other but together (the only non-competitive sport for which I have heard). This noncompetitive aspect of game contributes to its attractive spirit, because in Picigin it is not important who wins but the goal is simple to have fun.

Of course somebody came to the idea to also have a world championship in Picigin, so since year 2005, world championships in Picigin has been held in Split, to determine who is the world Championship a point system which awards, number of successful touches and the acrobatic skills determines which team will become the new world champions.