• Every Thursday, in its “off-field” section,

    20 Minutes

     explores new spaces for the expression of sport, unexpected, unusual, clever or booming.

  • This Thursday, we are interested in the Balloon World Cup, a project set up by footballer Gerard Piqué and Spanish streamer Ibai Llanos.

  • A game that makes it easy to return to childhood, even if the stakes are high for this tournament which takes place in PortAventura, Spain.

Purple socks with the most beautiful effect lifted up to the calves, closely shaved beard, impeccable haircut, incredible motivation. It had been a long time since we had seen Gerard Pique so sharp. Unfortunately for Barça supporters, it is still not to find a decent level on the pitch. No, if the Catalan defender had prepared so well, it was for the draw for the Balloon World Cup, held Tuesday evening on the Twitch channel of Spanish streamer Ibai Llanos. The Balloon what? The Balloon World Cup. Yes, remember, the same trick as when you tossed the ball on the floor, between two beds and a closet, to keep your sibling from catching it.

You can laugh, but this competition, which takes place this Thursday from 7 p.m. in the PortAventura theme park in Tarragona, is all about seriousness.

At the base of the project, Gerard Piqué, in his capacity as director of the Kosmos group, and Ibai Llanos, therefore.

After seeing the Arredondo brothers on TikTok (nearly 400,000 subscribers follow their games) fighting like hell in their room in Oregon (United States) to prevent a balloon from touching the ground, the two Spaniards decided to create this Balloon World Cup.

In two weeks, everything was folded.

What is the #BalloonWorldCup?



El mundial de ESTO: pic.twitter.com/yAY5x6afcu

- Balloon World Cup (@BalloonWorldCup) September 26, 2021

I'm a little ashamed to say it, but a priori, it seems a pretty funny idea to me, explained Ibai Llanos, between two giggles on Twitch with Pique.

It's something we've all done at home.

Looks like we're making a joke, but not at all, it's serious.

"

"I thought it was a scam"

Obviously, at the beginning, not many people believed it, not even the Arredondo brothers, who were contacted by the organizers.

“I didn't even know there was a World Cup until I got a DM from them,” says Antonio (21), who will be making the trip with his little brother from their small town of Canby, northern Oregon.

At first I thought it was a scam.

Once I found out who was organizing, I was so excited.

I still can't believe it's real.

"

To complete the picture, Llanos and Piqué asked internet users from different countries to send their applications on social networks.

“Right after the announcement, we received around 100 applications directly,” explains Berta Brau, Kosmos press officer.

Over the days, there were several hundred.

“From 12 teams planned at the start, we quickly went to 16, then 24 and finally 32. What to give ideas to Gianni Infantino at the head of Fifa to implement his reforms even faster?

So, in concrete terms, how will this competition unfold?

  • 32 competitors, one-on-one, best-of-three-point knockout tournament.

    The final, best of five points.

  • The match is played in a glass room with, inside, a large table, chairs, armchairs, a sofa, a TV.

    So many obstacles to complicate the task of the players.

    Add to that fans so that the balloon goes all over the place.

  • Balloons are provided by the organization.

    "The weight or the size do not matter, they just have to be new, because used balls fall more quickly", points out the expert Antonio Arredondo.

  • A single touch of the ball for each player, who will mainly use the hands for his attacks.

    We will only know this Thursday evening if other parts of the body will be allowed (and yes, the Balloon World Cup is a master in the art of cultivating suspense). 

  • It is forbidden to touch the ball from top to bottom.

    A penalty point in the event of an infringement.

  • To see if the ball has touched the ground, a VAR referee is provided.

    “For legal reasons, we called him

    El ojo del globo

    [the eye of the ball],” says Llanos.

Many different profiles

Among the competitors (we find in particular Equatorial Guinea, Andorra, Cuba and Bolivia), Nicklas Hallbäck will represent Sweden. The forties, the strong guy, who was in his young career goalkeeper football at a fairly good level, will be one of the "veterans" of the tournament, along with the Chilean representative. And he takes this Balloon World Cup very seriously: “It's going to be super fun, it's a sport, if you can call it sport, which brings us back to childhood, because we played it a lot. I hope my body will remember the movements and reflexes. Otherwise, we will make the brain work more than the young people will.

Because, it is well known, the young people can count only on their muscles, them which have nothing in the ciboulot.

Obviously, we did not say it like that to the beautiful Armenian baby Gor Khechoyan (23 years old), very happy to be able to represent his country in a world competition: "I hoped one day to carry high the colors of Armenia in a Greco-Roman wrestling competition, but because of my studies, I quit quite early.

So this Balloon World Cup is a good opportunity.

I have one goal: victory ”.

A prize-money of 20,000 euros

Especially since at the end, there is a check for 10,000 euros promised to the winner, plus two return tickets to South America. The second will pocket 3,500 euros plus a year of cakes offered by Oreo. Like the famous brand of addictive cookies, many sponsors also showed up to participate in the party: PortAventura, Volkswagen, Yoigo, Kelme, Doritos, Mentos… Even better: a shop with products derived from the event was created on Amazon. "Like that, it looks like bullshit, but it still cost money this story", assured Ibai Llanos. We asked the question of the budget of the said event in Kosmos to see: "We are not talking about that". White cabbage, then.

If everyone is rather relaxed as the event approaches, there is one that is freaking out a little around the edges: the local of the stage, the Spaniard Jan Franquesa.

“Frankly, I'm under pressure, I'm quite nervous,” admits the student in aerospace engineering.

It's a new sport, so we don't know the level of the opponent and I don't want to disappoint.

Especially since there will be a lot of people.

"

A place at the Olympics?

Kosmos, Piqué and Llanos have planned things big: red carpet, several personalities from the

El Chiringuito

show

, like Cristobal Soria, to comment on the competition, and the presence of stars like Jordi Alba, Marc Marquez, Kun Agüero, Shakira… A total of 400 people will attend the tournament.

For those who won't be able to make it to PortAventura - pretty much everyone - the Balloon World Cup will be streamed for free on the Ibai Llanos Twitch channel.

With an important stake at the end.

"If we reach 500,000 views [they were 120,000 for the draw], we redo an edition next year, promises Gerard Pique.

If we type in the million, we do another one in the year.

"

And at 10 million, the candidacy for the Olympics?

“Why not, laughs Nicklas Allbäck.

After all, it is an ultra-entertaining sport, which can appeal to young people.

And when we see that there can be sports such as curling or pistol shooting at the Olympic Games… ”Who is hot to represent France at the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028?

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Keywords: balloon world cup, competition, gerard piqué, balloon, portaventura, ibai llanos, scam., place, sport, tournament, game, theme park, childhood, streamer, stakes