Saturday, January 4, 2014

Tsinelas Kicks

In the Philippines, street ball is often exactly that --- basketball literally along the streets. Stick a hoop on the roadside and Filipinos will play ball all day long, rain or shine. Passing cars may temporarily stop the play, prompting players to step aside for a while, but it's no big deal. It's normal. It's part of the game, like an untimely timeout when everyone is already getting hyped.

Filipinos playing street ball, wearing the perfunctory tsinelas for kicks.
Image from

A regular fixture in these games are flip-flops, otherwise called overseas as step-ins, sandals, or go-aheads, among others.

Colloquially, though, Filipinos call them tsinelas, pronounced as chee-ne-las. These are the kicks that we usually sport during street ball. Beware, though. You'll know when the game is about to get serious when we remove our tsinelas and decide to play barefoot. Low to the ground, human flesh for cushion, skin for traction, with all the court feel we can get, rocks and all. Blisters on our feet after every game are nothing new. The pain is worth the win. It sucks, though, for the losing team.

We rock these tsinelas until the soles come off, which says a lot since the tsinelas is all sole. It's a rarity to see a Filipino street ball player wearing basketball shoes. For us, it's either one of two things: either the baller is a show-off or the baller is a bit more well-off. In other words, we judge things by the feet of whoever we are playing with or against. Wear tsinelas and you have a chill game. Remove them at some point during the game and it's a sign that someone is about to up his game. Rock a pair of shoes when all else around you is wearing tsinelas or is barefoot and you become a source of intimidation.

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