The National Sport of Colombia is Tejo.
Tejo is an ancient, explosive game that combines skill, strategy, and a touch of danger, capturing Colombia’s essence of fun and tradition.
To learn more about sports culture in Colombia, read our article about the most popular sports in Colombia.
Table of Contents
#1 History of Tejo
- Pre-Columbian era: Tejo traces its origin to the pre-Columbian people of Colombia, who played a similar game called Turmequé using a gold disc.
- 16th century: The Spanish colonization introduced gunpowder, which was incorporated into the game, leading to the modern version of Tejo we know today.
- 1960s-1970s: Tejo started gaining popularity outside its traditional strongholds in rural areas, spreading to larger cities across Colombia.
- 2000: Official recognition of Tejo as the national sport of Colombia was granted through the Legislative Act No. 613 by the Colombian Congress.
#2 Culture and Traditions
Tejo is more than just a sport in Colombia; it represents the country’s cultural identity and a shared social experience. The game has deep roots in rural Colombia, and it is often played during local festivities and community gatherings.
Tejo tournaments and ‘mundiales’ (world championships) are organized annually, drawing competitors from all demographics and social classes. These competitions often include live music, food, and dancing, turning the game into a larger cultural celebration.
In many smaller towns and cities, Tejo is played informally in local clubs and bars, where it serves as an essential aspect of social life. Combining skill, strategy, and camaraderie, Tejo unites Colombians in a shared passion for their national sport.
#3 How it Works: Rules, Gameplay and Equipment
📕 Rules & Gameplay
- Objective: Players aim to hit a small target called “mecha” placed on a clay board with a metal puck called “tejo”, causing a small explosion and scoring points.
- Teams: Tejo can be played individually or in teams, with each player or team taking turns to throw their tejos.
- Scoring: Points are awarded for landing the tejo in specific areas of the clay board, with bonus points for direct hits on the mecha or knocking out opponents’ tejos.
- Winning: The first player or team to reach a predetermined number of points (usually 21) wins the game.
⚙️ Equipment & Gear
- Tejo: A metal puck weighing between 680 grams and 780 grams, used for throwing at the target.
- Mecha: A small paper triangle filled with gunpowder and inserted into clay at the center of the target.
- Clay board: A 1-2 meter long, inclined wooden or concrete platform covered in clay, where the mecha and scoring zones are placed.
- Protective barriers: Vertical barriers surround the playing area to shield spectators from stray tejos.
#4 Modern Development of Tejo
In recent years, Tejo has experienced a surge in popularity thanks to its fusion of tradition and excitement. The sport has expanded from its rural origins, capturing the attention of a younger, urban population seeking a fun and cultural leisure activity.
Technological advancements have also impacted Tejo, with modernized clay boards and scoring systems being introduced, giving the sport a fresh, contemporary appeal. Social media and digital platforms have helped elevate Tejo’s profile, allowing enthusiasts to connect and share their passion for the game.
Today, Tejo is not only a beloved national sport but a symbol of Colombia’s unique culture and history. As Tejo continues to evolve in the 21st century, it retains its status as a unifying force, bringing Colombians together through their shared love for this exhilarating game.
#5 Tejo and the Olympics
As of now, Tejo has not been featured as an official or demonstration sport at the Olympic Games. Nevertheless, the sport’s growing popularity and cultural significance in Colombia keeps the possibility alive for future inclusion on the Olympic stage.
Though not yet part of the Olympics, Tejo’s increasing global recognition could potentially benefit from the exposure that comes with Olympic participation. This would undoubtedly raise the profile of the sport and could further ignite interest in Tejo internationally.
#6 Famous Athletes and Achievements
- José Maria Rico: A living legend and ambassador for the sport, Rico has won multiple national and mundial championships during his illustrious career.
- Eduardo Páez: Known for his exceptional accuracy and consistent performances, Páez has consistently ranked among the top Tejo players in international competitions.
- Carlos Mario Lopera: One of the most accomplished athletes in Tejo, Lopera has secured numerous national titles and earned accolades for his strategic approach to the game.
- Martha Cecilia Díaz: A trailblazer in women’s Tejo, Díaz has won several tournaments and has played a crucial role in promoting the sport among female athletes in Colombia.
#7 Where to watch Tejo
- Local Tejo clubs and bars: In Colombia, many local venues offer Tejo competitions and tournaments, providing an authentic experience for spectators interested in the sport.
- Colombian media outlets: Though not as broadly covered as mainstream sports, Tejo competitions are occasionally broadcast on local radio stations and regional TV channels.
- Online platforms: Social media and video-sharing websites such as YouTube are great resources for watching Tejo matches or learning more about the sport from athletes and enthusiasts.