History of the Bocce Federation
The origins of bocce are believed to date back to 9000 BC where stone bowls were found in Turkey. Traces have also been found dating back to the time of the Pharaohs. In fact, a game similar to bocce was played in ancient Greece and during the middle ages.From the early Greek physician Ipocrates to the great Italian Renaissance man Galileo, the early participants of bocce have noted that the game's athleticism and spirit of competition rejuvenates the body. Bocce enjoyed rapid growth throughout Europe and became the sport of nobility and peasants alike. According to legend, Sir Francis Drake refused to set out to defend England against the Spanish Armada until he finished a game. He proclaimed, "First we finish the game, then we'll deal with the Armada!".
By the 1800s Bocce was played across the north of Italy and in other European countries like France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, Slovenia, Istra, Croatia and Bosnia. In Italy men played bocce at the back of 'Osterias' and along the back streets. In the mid-1800s Italy was unstable. The two Guiseppes Garibaldi and Mazzini led the 'red shirts' across the country in a bid to unify the Italian speaking peoples. It was during this period that many northern Italians started immigrating to places like Australia and America, taking the game of bocce with them.
Now, different countries around the world have their own version of bocce. It is played with various rules and on different surfaces, although the basic aim of the sport remains the same. As interest for competition between countries grew, so did the need for uniform rules. In 1946 the French, Italian, Swiss and Monegasque Federations formed the Federation international de Boules (F.I.B.) and International competition was born. In 1985, the Confederation Mondiale des Sports de Boules (C.M.S.B.) was formed to include all forms of the game. The C.M.S.B. consists of four International federations, F.I.P.J.P. (Petanque), C.B.I. (Raffa), World Bowls (Lawn Bowls), and F.I.B. (Bocce), with the F.I.B. being the oldest of the four. The C.M.S.B. was recognised by the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) in 1986, known as sport-boules.
Competitive bocce has a long history with the formation of the French Federation in 1888 and the Italian in 1919. But socially bocce has been played on the streets and in the parks for centuries before this. There are two main forms of bocce, Volo and Raffa. Volo is played competitively in Australia and is the most modernised form of the game with its technical throwing events involving a high level of fitness. Professional levels of the sport are played in European countries.
Today bocce is played throughout the world with 50 countries being members of the F.I.B. Regular World Championships for Men, Women, and juniors are held annually. It is also played at the World and Mediterranean Games. Six events are played at World Championships: Singles, Doubles, Combined (Bowl/Throw), Precision Throw, Progressive Throw, and Doubles Rapid Throw. Only the three throwing events are played at the World and Mediterranean Games, as these events are the future of the sport and adaptive to the younger generation of players
History of Bocce in Australia
Bocce was first introduced to Australia by European migrants in the early 1900s and was played in backyards, streets and inner suburb parks. This recreational sport matured to become a fully-fledged competitive sport in the 1960s. In 1970 the first national Bocce championships was held. This Championship is still the major annual event on the Australian Bocce calendar.
Bocce was first played in Australia by the northern Italian and Swiss Italian immigrants who came to the Victorian goldfields at Daylesford, Hepburn Springs and Yandoit in central Victoria, in the 1850s and 60s. Much of Australia's early day bocce was played for fun with some salami and a glass or 2 of vino (wine). Often the men used to play for a glass of wine. After the 2nd world war Italian migration to Australia grew rapidly. Many Italians from the northern Italian regions of Friuli, Venezia Guilia and Veneto came to Australia bringing the game of bocce with them. The game was played in the backyards of boarding-houses and in places were Australia's Italians started congregating like Carlton, Brunswick, Fitzroy, Richmond, Flemington and across the inner suburbs of Melbourne. Many Italians started settling in the north of Melbourne around Northcote and Thornbury in the 1950s.It was back in 1957 when Melbourne's Italian community came together for the first time and formed a committee to start up a social club. from there Italian bocce legends like Virginio Turco and Remo Cher from Furlan in northern Italy helped form Australia's first bocce committee. Both men were later to become presidents of both the Victorian and Australian Bocce Federations. Seven years later and Australia's first bocce club had opened at the original Fogolar Furlan Club in Mansfield St Thornbury on the 10th of October 1964. The original club had 4 bocce lanes with the club specifically built around the bocce court. In the early days the women played tombola (bingo) while the men played bocce. Many of the newly arrived Italians from the northern Veneto region also joined the Furlan people at the Fogolar Club in Thornbury until they later built their own big bocce courts at the Veneto club in Bulleen. Soon after many other italian clubs were formed around their bocce courts.
The Bocce Federation of Australia (BFA), was formed in 1971 with branches in all states. Application to the Federation international de Boules (F.I.B.) was accepted in 1973. Players represented Australia for the first time in the international Bocce arena in Val-Les-Brains, France where we achieved 11th placing in the four events played.
Australia has held three World Championships. In 1979, Melbourne hosted the Third World Doubles Bocce Championships, being the first in the southern hemisphere. The success of this event led to an increase in participation numbers in the sport. Melbourne also hosted the World Championship again in 1985 and the World Junior Championships in 1988 as part of the Australian Bicentenary.
The employment of a part time development officer assisted this rapid growth and implemented the Federation’s growth plan. Another important step forward for the Federation was the setting up of programs for senior citizens. Australia was the first country in the world to organise women’s competitions, although only at state level. Further growth was slow but women now have their own National championship and girls compete equally in junior competition. Below is one of the first BFA logos.
The future of the BFA lies in the expansion of the sport within the school setting; more regular competitions for the young. There is a need for greater involvement in the program development for the workplace and the rehabilitation fields.
As means of providing greater international competition without traveling to Europe. Bocce has been introduced to neighboring countries. The Australian Bocce team visited China in 1983 to promote our sport to universities and sports institutes. The success or our visit was shown in the BFA’s return visit in 1995 when our national team played exhibition matches against Chinese regional teams. In recent times China have achieved Gold medals at Women World Championships and medals in the Mens. Bocce is now one of the fastest growing sports in China and participates in the Australian Junior & Under 23 Open.
Today in Australia more than 10,000 people play bocce both as a recreational and competitive sport.