Pallapugno, or formerly pallone elastico, originates from ancient Italy. Played with a bandaged fist, today’s game is a celebration of athlete and community. Photographer Gabriele Facciotti captures decisive moments, composite angles and the people surrounding the unique sport.

Once considered the most popular sport in ancient Italy, the national sport of Pallapugno dates back to the 16 century with the rules said to be invented as early as 1555. Today, the sport is bridging gaps between professional and popular, athlete and fan. 

Looking for the decisive moments in which movements become angles within his frame, Gabriele Facciotti is bringing new awareness and direction to the sport. Celebrating players’ skill equally as the close community of followers, fans and the cultural environment surrounding the obscure sport, Facciotti is able to bring new elements with his latest photo story series. Using minimal compositions, muted tones and angular frames, his work is breathing life into the sports culture and giving the people both on and off the court a voice.

Stating, “I found it a very interesting mixture of professional and popular, which you usually don’t find in pro-sport shooting assignments”, Facciotti tells us both of the rules of the sport and the people that frame its culture. Looking for the decisive moment in all his sport shooting, delve into his latest assignment and meet the players, fans and people of Pallapugno.

IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
Photo: IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
Photo: IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti

Can you tell us a little bit about Pallapugno and how you knew about it?

Pallapugno, or formerly pallone elastico, is a game that originates from Piedmont and Liguria. I knew about it thanks to a journalist and friend I used to travel and work with in winter on Ski assignments. He is very fond of it and he knows that world very well. He invited me to shoot a big match.

IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
Photo: IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
Photo: IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti

What do you see as the charm or importance of Pallapugno today?

I found Pallapugno very interesting because there’s a very cool atmosphere. Players are real athletes. The game is played thoroughly and seriously, as in major league matches such as Football or Skiing, but on the stands there’s a folkloristic kind of atmosphere. I found it to be a very interesting mixture of professional and popular, which you usually don’t find in pro-sport shooting assignments.

IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
Photo: IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
Photo: IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti

What are the core elements of the game?

The core element is the ball. The game is something between Tennis and Volleyball. Speed, energy, strategy and resistance are really well expressed on the field.

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The professional Italian pallapugno league is the top level of competition: in 2008 ten teams competed. Each team has four players. The court, or sferisterio, is 90 metres long and 18 metres wide; the rubber ball has a diameter of 10.5 centimetres and weighs 190 grams. Scoring is also by fifteens and tens in every game, but a second bounce can result in a chase rather than an outright point, similar to real tennis; the team which wins 11 games is the winner of the match.

IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
Photo: IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
Photo: IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
Photo: IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti

What do you hope to capture in this series of photography?

I’m always attracted by the gesture in every sport I shoot. I’m always looking for the decisive moment and always trying to tell a story through those elements.

IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
Photo: IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
Photo: IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
Photo: IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
Photo: IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
Photo: IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti
Photo: IMAGO / Gabriele Facciotti

Gabriele Facciotti is a Sport and Action photographer specialized in editorial and advertising photography, based in Italy.

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