Valencian pilota

Valencian pilota (Valencian: pilota valenciana [piˈlɔta valensiˈana] "Valencian ball") is a traditional handball sport played in the Valencian Country.[1] Its origins are not known.

Valencian pilota match

Rules variations within the generic Pilota Valenciana category are frequent from area to area but the common trait is that the ball is struck with a bare, or almost bare, hand (only minimal protection is applied in some versions of the sport). The general rule involves two teams made from two up to five players each (the numbers depend on the particular version played). Exceptionally, individual matches are also played (mostly in Escala i corda and Raspall) between the most renowned players.

The second characteristic is that it is not played against a wall. Instead, similar to modern tennis, two individuals or teams are placed face to face separated either by a line on the ground or a net in all of modern modalities except for the frontó. A distinctive trait of Valencian pilota is that the spectators are often seated or standing very close to the court which means that they may be hit by the ball and thus become an (unwilling) part of the game.


Joc de pilota, de Josep Bru i Albinyana
"Joc de pilota", 1881, llargues.

The origins of Valencian pilota are not known with certainty, but it is commonly supposed to have been derived from the medieval Jeu de paume along with several other European handball sports (for example the Basque laxoa, French Longue paume, Frisian handball and Italian Pallone) similar to the actual Valencian llargues variant.

Jeu de paume is documented at Paris in 1292 since there were 13 ball workshops and many tripots (courtfields); it was first played with the hands, and the scoring system was very similar to the current Valencian one. There were so many resemblances with the Valencian pilota sport that, in the 16th century, the humanist Joan Lluís Vives compared both games in his Dialogues and claimed them to be exactly the same despite some minor differences.

Benissanó 1925
Escala i corda match, 1925

Being played by low-class people and high-class nobles, Valencian pilota was very popular: On June 14, 1391 the Valencia City Council fruitlessly forbade it to be played on the streets, but this caused the expansion of trinquets (courtfields); there were as many as 13 in that city alone in the 16th century. Later on, nobles abandoned the handball game in favour of '"'cleaner" sports and so pilota became the property of the middle and lower classes, which led to the appearance of the first professional players and the rise of gambling and challenge matches.[1]

The break between indoor and outdoor forms caused many variants to diverge from the original Llargues version. Thus Perxa evolved into Galotxa, and which in turn gave rise to Escala i corda, while Raspall was still played in both courtfields. llargues is the only variant that uses the original "ratlles" rule, the others using a net to separate two sides on the playing area (as galotxa, and escala i corda), or with no court division at all (raspall). Another case is the Frontó variety, which was first documented in the late 19th century, influenced by the popularity of the main Basque pelota variant, which involves players throwing the ball against a wall.

Llosa de Ranes-Raspall
Raspall match, 2007

Nowadays, Valencian pilota is played in the whole Valencian Community, but every area has its preferred variety. Professional players of Escala i corda and Raspall are hired to play at the trinquets or in streets during the towns' festivals. The popularity of this sport is rising again with the building of new cortifields at schools, weekly broadcasts on Valencian public TV, the management of a professional company (ValNet) and the Handball International Championships with countries where these sports with a common origin are played.

Playing area

There are two basic versions of the sport depending whether it is played outdoors in a designated street or indoors.

  • Variations of the game played in the street are Galotxa, Llargues and Raspall. The streets must be long and wide (Llargues or "longs" is the one which needs the most elongated playing ground). If the streets have some irregularities, such as balconies, lights, sidewalks, traffic signals, etc., they may be used in order to score. Some municipalities have built "fake streets" which look like real ones but are meant only for pilota games.
  • As for the ones played indoors there are:
    • Frare: Is a short Valencian frontó with bevels on the corners that cause the ball to bounce unexpectedly. Mostly played in the North of the Castelló province.
    • Frontó: Valencian frontons 20-to-30-metre (65 ft 7 in to 98 ft 5 in) long courts with a 6-metre (20 ft) high wall, frontis, against which the players bounce the ball off a rear wall where the ball may be bounced as well and another wall at the left of the players. The frontis has a 1-metre (3 ft 3 in) high line which marks the lowest point where a bouncing ball may hit.
    • Galotxetes: Played in a 20-by-3.5-metre (65 ft 7 in × 11 ft 6 in) space with a 1-metre (3 ft 3 in) high net in the middle. On the four corners there are open holes resembling doors where points are scored. Now it is only played in the Vinalopó Mitjà comarca, but the oldest court still in use dates from 1772 in Abdet (Marina Baixa).
      Trinquete Pedreguer
      Trinquet ready for an Escala i corda game
    • Trinquet: There is a 60-by-10-metre (196 ft 10 in × 32 ft 10 in) four walled court with stairs (escala) on one side for the spectators to sit. There are also two galleries over each of the frontons (shortest walls) for people to sit. There is a bottom balcony (llotgeta) where reputed people or professional betters may sit, similar to a box in other stadiums. Next to the llotgeta a square is drawn on the ground: the dau, where players start the game. In order to play Escala i corda rules a 2-metre (6 ft 7 in) high net (corda) must be placed in the middle of the court. One of the most reputed is the Pelayo trinquet in Valencia. See also the List of Valencian trinquets.
Trinquete Pedreguer
Trinquet ready for an Escala i corda game


With the basic set of rules for either street or indoor pilota, there are many different variations, some of them are played only locally, but most of them are played in wider areas. The only modalities with professional players are Escala i corda and Raspall.

Another way to categorize variations is whether they are direct or indirect. The direct games are those whose players are opposed face-to-face in different sides of the court, which is sometimes divided by a net; the indirect games are those with a wall where both teams throw the ball from a shared court. The traditional variations of Pilota Valenciana are direct, even though recently some indirect games ("Frontó" and "Frares") have been introduced based on the Basque Pelota.

Direct games

Escala i corda
  • Foto Jugadors IES Maritim
    Escala i corda: A more prestigious game and (alongside Raspall) the only one played professionally. It is played in a trinquet where a 1.8m high net is placed in the middle of the field. The ball must be thrown between players over the net, but can be aimed anywhere, mostly to special places such as the galeries or the llotgeta where a direct point is scored.[2]
  • Galotxa: This can be played in both regular streets or fake streets built solely for playing. The game resembles Escala i corda but with two nets and many more tricks, such as using irregularities in the street (like bumps or existing features from daily life like traffic signs) to score.
  • Galotxetes: Now it's only played in Monòver, Pinoso and La Romana, all in the Vinalopó Mitjà comarca, similar to Escala i corda but shorter and with a different ball.
Foto Jugadors IES Maritim
  • Llargues: This version can only be played in regular streets. It's said to be the oldest game. There is no net or field separating the teams. Each point is won twice: The first time the ball is stopped a ratlla (line) is marked on the ground. The second time the ball is stopped it has been thrown over that ratlla, the point is won by the sender.
  • Raspall: Similar to Escala i corda as it's played in a trinquet, but without any net and the ball may bounce as many times as needed. Since players are forced to play stooped many times, it is considered the hardest variation to play. For example, Escala i corda games are won by the team who gets 60 points, but Raspall are played until 40.[3]

Indirect games

International games

Llargues, international game and fronton

The only Valencian pilota variety played outside the Valencian community is Llargues. Every year a European championship is held by the International Ball game Confederation with players from Valencia, Belgium, France, Italy, and the Netherlands. There is also a world championship with those teams plus Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

The Handball International Championships combine local handball variations from all over Europe to create the "international game" using the shared traits from all the sports related or derived from the jeu de paume. Valencian professional players do not need much adaptation, since Llargues is very close to the international rules.

Another case is the international fronton, another invented variety that takes back the indirect style to its basics: one wall where the ball must bounce.

Relationship with Basque pelota

From the Basque Pelota modalities played in the Basque Country the ones called "bote luzea", "mahi jokoa" are extinct but, by all accounts they were extremely similar to what has been preserved in Valencian Pilota as Llargues, but using a bigger and heavier ball.

An example of the compatibility there used to be between Valencian Llargues and Basque a la larga modalities was the existence during the 19th century of a sort of early professional side to the sport, with players from elsewhere earning high amounts of money, such as Aragonese Lagasa and Valencian Amigó, who, for example, toured in Navarre during September 1680.

In October 2006, for the first time, a Navarrese youth team played Llargues against a Valencian one during the "Pilota Day" celebrated in Valencia (in the adult match, the Valencian community team played the Frisian team from the Netherlands). At the moment the only exchanges between both sports are friendly matches of Frontó, which is the main modality for Basques but a mostly irrelevant one for Valencians. In summer, or for special events, exhibition matches are organized, as the "Open Ciutat de València", with particular rules (such as the length of the court), and balls of intermediate size and diameter (70 gr.) between the kinds that both regions are accustomed to.

1992 Summer Olympics

The Valencian pilota was a demonstration sport in the 1992 Summer Olympics hosted in Barcelona.


Left to right: Vaqueta, badana, tec and galotxetes balls. Below left is a leather glove

Every version of the game uses its own kind of ball. Each kind is different in weight, size, the way it bounces and other aspects. They are all handmade by specialized crafters.

  • Badana ball: Used for Llargues, it is a soft ball which can be played without any protection, since llargues are played on the streets. The bounce is very irregular, causing the ball to be almost incapable of regular bouncing. It is made of rags and sheep skin, and usually weighs 39 grams with a diameter of 38 mm.
  • Galotxetes ball: Used only for Galotxetes, it is very big and heavy, but it can be played without protection. It cannot bounce. It is made of rags with sticking pasters. It weighs 60 grams with a diameter of 70 mm.
  • Tec ball: Used for Valencian frontó, it is a very fast bouncing ball. Because it is very hard, protection is required. The ball takes its name from its characteristic sound. It is made of wood, and covered with goat skin. The ball usually weighs 48-50 grams and has a diameter of 50 mm.
  • Vaqueta ball: Used for Escala i corda and Raspall, it is a very fast ball and bounces well. Players must wear protective equipment. It is made of wood and covered with leather. It weighs 40-42 grams and has a diameter of 42 mm.


Betting is inherent to the sport in its professional version and it is arguably the main factor which has kept the game alive, unlike similar games played elsewhere which ended up fading away. This is because betting allows professional players to exist, which creates rivalries and increases the entertaining dimension of the sport for the audience. Spectators of Valencian pilota can bet on one of the two sides, and the trinquets and the marxador gets a commission from these bets.

The two teams dress either with red or blue shirts. Bets are made for one color (red or blue) winning, for a certain margin of victory points, or for an expected way to score each particular point.

Remarkably high amounts of money may be bet during relevant games involving famous players. The more famous players become, the more betting is involved and so their personal revenue.


Valencian pilota players are called pilotaris or pilotaires. Usually amateur players are only proficient in one variant, but professional players tend to be hired for social events and exhibitions in other variants. There are now only two variants with professional players: Escala i corda and Raspall.

Traditionally, each player managed his own agenda and arranged his fees, but in 2005 a new company, ValNet, presided over by the retired pilotari Fredi contracted almost all professional players.

For a list of relevant historical or active players, see Valencian pilotaris. Also, see below for the existing professional leagues and competitions.

Renowned active pilotaris

Retired pilotaris

Professional Leagues and competitions

Escala i Corda


See also


  1. ^ a b "History of the Valencian Pilota", Federació de Pilota Valenciana (in Catalan), retrieved 5 December 2013
  2. ^ "Circuit Bancaixa 2006/07". Archived from the original on 2007-03-10. Retrieved 2007-01-05.
  3. ^ One-on-one 2006 League

External links


Alfred Hernando

Alfred Hernando Hueso (Valencia 1957), known as Fredi, is a retired Valencian pilota professional player working now as a pilota businessman. He was a member of the Valencian Pilota Squad.

Fredi had a successful career at the Valencian trinquets as an Escala i corda escalater. His active years coincided with Genovés I, one of the best players of all times, so Fredi was lucky of playing with him but unlucky of not being able to win more competitions because of him.

When he retired as a player he decided to renew the structures of the Valencian pilota with a new trophy, the Escala i corda Circuit Bancaixa league for professional players, with his own company, Frediesport, and the Valencian bank Bancaixa.

In 2005 he joined the ex-pilotari Daniel Ribera, Ribera II, and the Gandia trinquet owner, Emili Peris, to create a brand new company, ValNet, which contracts all professional players.

Circuit Bancaixa

The Circuit Bancaixa (Valencian pronunciation: [siɾˈkujd baŋˈkajʃa]; "Bancaixa League"), officially Liga Profesional Escala i Corda, is the professional league of Valencian pilota.

Circuit Bancaixa name is taken from its main sponsor, the Valencian Savings bank CaixaBank. During the period 1991–1992, it replaced the Campionat Nacional d'Escala i Corda, which had existed from 1952–1990. The league was initially created by the retired pilotari Alfred Hernando (aka Fredi). The league, which originally just featured the best local players, has since expanded and gained prestige. Some famous former players include Sarasol I, Pigat II, and Álvaro.

During the 2007-2008 sports season, eight teams participated for the first time, with three feridors and six replacing pilotaris. Each team was composed of two or three members from the ValNet firm. Teams had to score as many points as possible to remain in the competition (3 points for victory, and 1 point in case of loss but scoring 50 tants). The six highest scoring teams each earned a place for a second phase with the same rules. When there were only four teams left, two matches were played as the best of three matches. The winners then went on to the final, with each team composed of two or three members from the ValNet firm.

Circuit Bancaixa 07/08

The Escala i Corda XVII Professional League 07-08 of the Circuit Bancaixa is the top-level championship of the Escala i corda, a modality of Valencian pilota, organized by the firm ValNet. During the very first days the Valencian Pilota Federation disagreed with the way it was organized and gave no "official" title to this season, but finally ValNet and the FPV reached an agreement.It is played in several rounds. The first two ones are a league all-against all; the two worst teams are disqualified. Every victory is worth 3 points, but if the losing team attains 50 jocs they sum up 1 point. This way, in the first round there are eight teams, in the second round there are six teams, and four in the semi-finals. The finals are played to the best of 3 matches.

Escala i corda

Escala i corda (Valencian pronunciation: [esˈkala j ˈkɔɾða], "stairs and rope") is the most prestigious variant of Valencian pilota, and the only one apart from raspall to have professional players.

Handball International Championships

The Handball International Championships are yearly held competitions where many countries and regions play the handball sports derived from the Jeu de paume.

It is organized by the International Ball game Confederation, and there are three official varieties (International fronton, International game, and Llargues), but local modalities are also played.

International fronton

The International fronton is an indirect style ball game created to bring together some varieties (such as American handball, Basque pelota, Patball, Gaelic handball, Pêl-Law (Welsh handball) and Valencian frontó), and to be played in the Handball International Championships. It is known as One Wall Handball.

International game

The International game (Valencian: joc internacional, IPA: [ˈdʒɔk ˌinteɾnasi.oˈnal]) is a ball game modality that joins up many sports allegedly derived from the Jeu de paume. It's played in the Handball International Championships by teams from the Americas and Europe.


Llargues (Valencian pronunciation: [ˈʎaɾɣes], "long ones") is the oldest Valencian pilota modality. It is played on the streets, where two teams formed by 3, 4 or 5 players throw each other the ball with the hand try to surpass an imaginary line which changes every game.

There are no professional players, but it is very common in the towns and villages of some regions of the Valencian Community, such as the Marina Alta and Baixa, l'Alacantí, l'Alcoià and the Comtat .

Pelayo trinquet

The Pelayo trinquet (Valencian: trinquet de Pelayo) is one of the most renowned trinquets courts of the Valencian pilota sport in Valencia. The most important Escala i corda competitions, such as the Circuit Bancaixa, have their final matches played there.


Raspall (Valencian pronunciation: [rasˈpaʎ], "scraping") is a variant of the handball game, Valencian pilota, played mainly in the Valencian regions south to the Xúquer river: the Vall d'Albaida, the Safor, the Costera, the Marina Alta and the Marina Baixa. It is also popular in the Ribera Baixa. It is one of only two variants that have professional players—the other being Escala i corda.

The game may be played either indoors in a trinquet or outdoors on the street. In either case the playing area is divided into two halves called the "serving" and "receiving" fields. Among its distinguishing features is the lack of any formal divider between the two halves and the rule that the ball is allowed to bounce as many times as desired. This rule makes the game one of the most energetic variants of Valencian pilota, as the players must frequently stoop to hit the ball close to the ground.

Raspall singles championship

The Campionat Individual de Raspall (Valencian for Raspall Singles Championship) is the Valencian pilota Raspall modality singles league played by professional pilotaris.

Raspall team championship

The Campionat per Equips de Raspall (Valencian for Team Raspall Championship) is the Valencian pilota Raspall modality league played by professional pilotaris.

Trofeu Individual Bancaixa

The Trofeu Individual Bancaixa (Valencian pronunciation: [tɾoˈfɛw indiviðuˈal baŋˈkajʃa]) "Bancaixa one-on-one trophy") is the Escala i corda singles league played by Valencian pilota professionals and promoted by the Bancaixa bank.

Trofeu Individual Bancaixa 2007

The Trofeu Individual Bancaixa 2007 is the 22nd season of the Trofeu Individual Bancaixa, the one-on-one trophy of Escala i corda, a variant of Valencian pilota.


ValNet is the company gathering all Valencian pilota professional players.

In 2005 the retired pilotaris Alfred Hernando (Fredi), Daniel Ribera (Ribera II) and the trinquet owner Emili Peris, joined to create a brand new company that professionalized this old sport's environment: Assured minimal fees for the players, physical preparation, a number of weekly matches for everyone, levelled competitions and challenging exhibitions for bettings. This all has cleaned up and revitalized Valencian pilota world but has also carried some criticism because of alleged favours to certain players and trinquets.

Valencian Pilota Federation

The Valencian Pilota Federation (in Catalan: Federació de Pilota Valenciana) is the Valencian public organization that promotes and manages the many varieties and competitions of the Valencian pilota sport. Its current president is Ramón Sedeño Clemente.

There are 2003 licensed players, 28 teachers for the 756 students at the pilota colleges. There are 77 professional players (pilotaris), and 15 marxadors at the trinquets.

The "Federació de Pilota Valenciana" was founded on 1984, until then it was part of the "Confederación Española de Pelota", which was devoted to Basque pelota, a different handball. Its worry about the Valencian pilota was shown when the presidents of the Valencian federation were chosen at Madrid and they were unaware of this sport or whose only merit was being retired players of the Basque variety. This was the situation until a retired professional Valencian pilotari, Enrique Menéndez, got to be president but soon gave up protesting for the "ignorance" the local handball was suffering, according to him. His resignation, so, forced the raise of an independent Valencian pilota federation.

The FPV has named June 14 as the "Pilota day", recalling the date playing pilota was forbidden at the streets of València, 1391.

Valencian frontó

Frontó (Valencian pronunciation: [fɾonˈto]) is a modified Valencian pilota version of the original Basque Pelota game. The name frontó refers both to the game, ball and the playing area. Unlike some of the more popular Valencian Pilota rules, frontó is an indirect game, that is, players do not stand face-to-face but share a common playing area.

Valencian trinquet

Valencian trinquet, or simply trinquet (Valencian pronunciation: [tɾiŋˈket]), is the court used in the Valencian Community for two different modalities of Valencian pilota: the Escala i corda and the Raspall.

Musical instruments
and typical music
Traditions and feasts
Music festivals

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