TV

Spanish TV sport Castell makes the Premier League look like a garden party

Lucy Sweet finds her new favourite TV sport while on holiday in Spain – a massive game of human Jenga with children on top. What could possibly go wrong?

Usually, I watch sport on TV in the way a goldfish watches the world through a murky tank. No real sense of what it is about, forgetting what it is every three seconds, getting distracted by other things. (Ooh, look, a plastic castle! Ooh, look, algae! etc.)

An exception to this is tennis. For some reason I understand all the rules, and can make all the jubilant whoops and disappointed groans at the right moments. I also don’t mind a bit of gymnastics, because you know where you are with that. The points system is baffling, but generally it’s straightforward stuff – depressed Ukrainian girl in an enforced state of pre-pubescence does improbable physical feats, while you watch from the sofa eating spicy Doritos and telling anyone in the room about the BAGA award you got when you were seven.

Last week, while I was on holiday, I found a televised spectator sport that really grabbed my attention. It involves huge amounts of people climbing on each other’s shoulders and wobbling like a drunk person trying to find their front door key. Then – the pièce de resistance – a couple of six-year-olds come shimmying up the sides, lemur-like, and balance on top, while crowds of people cheer at the sight of babies that are 50 feet in the air, unaided, swaying around in flimsy crash helmets that look like they were bought at the Decathlon sale.

Appropriately for a sport-watching goldfish like me, they’re called Castells, and are a Catalan tradition, alongside drinking Estrella and absolutely refusing to speak Spanish. Children have been climbing to the tops of these human towers for centuries, incredibly without incident, and it was only when a death occurred a few years ago that they decided to introduce the token bike helmets.

Again and again they arranged themselves in ill-advised piles, with those little kids scampering up there like Victorian chimney sweeps

Nobody seems to think a massive game of human Jenga with children on top is a bad idea. In fact, the way that people arrange themselves, with a scrum at the bottom and star-shaped supports, is considered an incredible art, and each section of the tower embodies Catalonian virtues – strength, balance, courage and (apparently) common sense.

My God, though, if ever a sport made you sit up and shout ‘WTF?’ it’s this one. I was on the edge of my seat, about to phone the police. I screamed, I couldn’t look, I was lost for words. When one tower toppled it was the worst episode of You’ve Been Framed! ever, but when they were all okay, it was sweet relief. Again and again they arranged themselves in ill-advised piles, with those little kids scampering up there like Victorian chimney sweeps. Sky Sports should get a piece of this action. It Y.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Anjana Vasan on We Are Lady Parts season two, Malala and why UK must open its doors to immigrants
Anjana Vasan
TV

Anjana Vasan on We Are Lady Parts season two, Malala and why UK must open its doors to immigrants

Benedict Cumberbatch: 'History judges us on how we treat those who are most vulnerable'
Benedict Cumberbatch in Netflix series Eric with his monster pal
TV

Benedict Cumberbatch: 'History judges us on how we treat those who are most vulnerable'

Benedict Cumberbatch warns history is repeating itself as streethomelessness soars
Benedict Cumberbatch in Netflix series Eric with his monster pal
Film

Benedict Cumberbatch warns history is repeating itself as streethomelessness soars

Baroness Floella Benjamin on being Black on TV, Play School and giving hope to children in poverty
Baroness Floella Benjamin
TV

Baroness Floella Benjamin on being Black on TV, Play School and giving hope to children in poverty

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know