Coronavirus in Madagascar: big change for pétanque players

Audio 01:21

Tontonne, the Malagasy professional player with the biggest prize list, trains at the Cnaps boules pitch without knowing when the next international competition will take place on 05/23/2020. Sarah Tétaud / RFI

Text by: RFI Follow

Confinement or not, in Madagascar, pétanque remains a popular sport, "the national sport", say even lovers of the pig. However, restrictive measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus have changed habits. RFI went to the Cnaps boules pitch, one of the most popular courses in the capital, Antananarivo, and met the player with the biggest prize list on the Island.


Read more

With our correspondent in Antananarivo, Sarah Tétaud

Restrictive measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the Malagasy capital, such as the ban on gathering more than 50 people in one place, have completely changed the habits and rituals of pétanque players. It is a fold to take for amateurs but the situation is more than handicapping for professional players who live from this sport.

The eye screwed on the ball, the flexible gesture, Tonitsihoarana Alhenj Zoel - known as Tontonne - succeeds in precision shots. However, the multi-champion of Madagascar and world champion today feels a bit like a novice. It is the third time he has come out, in two months of confinement, for fear of the virus: “  I think it is a little dangerous; there are few people who wear masks  ”, despite the obligation to wear them.

The one who trained two or three hours a day with his triplet partners reduced his training to one hour, alone, at home.

All national and international championships in the coming months have been canceled, a moral blow but not only: "  It's hard financially because 90% of Mada players live on pétanque and as it does there are more contests, more Paissa, that is to say the parties of interest where I could earn money, well my income has decreased. Before, when we were playing the interest parties, in one week, I could earn up to 500,000 ar (120 €, double the minimum monthly salary) but now it's 0  ”.

It is almost 1:00 p.m. The players repack their balls to go home and respect partial confinement, a daily scene that distresses Zaka Andriamandimbisoa - known as Coco -, the president of the Miram  boules club : " Before we trained until 6:00 pm and even 8:00 pm, in the evening, because there are spotlights. Sometimes we played until early morning. It has not been possible for two months. The other impact is that the whole life of the neighborhood is turned upside down  . ”

Gargotes, snacks, small shops that enlivened the premises… All of them have closed their doors since the beginning of the confinement, much to the chagrin of players and spectators.

Newsletter Receive all international news directly in your mailbox

I subscribe

Follow all international news by downloading the RFI application


  • Madagascar
  • Coronavirus