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One of the most popular pastimes in Spira is the game of Blitzball.

From what I gather, it is played underwater in a giant spherical pool with the aim of scoring the ball in an opposing team's (triangular) goal.

Is anyone able to provide further clarifications as to the rules and specifics on this game of 'Blitz'?

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    It is basically turn based soccer. The sphere is just a gimmick, the play are is usually just in a flat plane, except certain special moves – Craqgerbil Aug 28 '18 at 1:38
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A lot of the information on it's rules can be found on the Final Fantasy Wikia. You've already summarized the basic concept of it. Some further points to it are:

  • Positions, except for Goalkeeper, really just determine a person's starting position when a round begins as even those in the back can score, although strategically,
  • Your back players help defend the Goalkeeper,
  • Your forward players help your center attack,
  • A match is two 5 minute rounds with a half-time break,
  • In the event of a tie, in a tournament match there is a 5-minute overtime,
  • subsequent 5-minute overtimes are played if it remains a tie.

To clarify some points by YElm:

but the game is not clear about how long you can just swim on.

There is no limit as one can spend the entire 5 minutes with the ball in hand. This come from personal experience in the game where one of my tactics for facing Ronso Teams is that, since Ronso are slow swimmers, you can lead in the score, take ownership of the ball and spend the entire match swimming away from them (best done with Guado who are much faster.)

There was also a time when facing the Al Bhed Psyches where I just floated in one spot, not moving, and the opposing players just span around. aA glitch in the game rather than being an actual situation in real life

Obviously it's impossible to hold your breath for several minutes while being physically very active

It may actually be a trait with some people to be able to do this as not every person you meet can be recruited to play and with Yuna's party only Tidas, Wakka and Riku do underwater jobs for them. Al Bhed may have a better chance at having this trait post Machina War as shown at the start with the operation Tidas "assists" in where Riku and Brother recover the Fahrenheit. Riku and Tidas go down quit a bit and stay down there and on the way down you see an Al Bhed swimming back up.

After the start of the Eternal Calm the rules were changed.

  • If a team leads the game by seven goals at any point, the game ends with the leading team being given victory,
  • There are eight players per team (Originally 5 + Goal Keeper): three fielders, four defenders, and one goalkeeper,
  • There is only one five-minute round, with no half time break,
  • Overtime can last up to thirty minutes. If still tied the match is replayed from 0–0.

Now a bit on the history:

We know that following the appearance of Sin, Blitzball became Spira's only form of entertainment with Yevon adopting the gesture for victory for various religious gestures as we see 2 forms of this:

  • The smaller one shown by Wakka when "reminding" Tidas of it (though Tidas will comment after that he knew it as the Blitzball Sign of Victory as this is shown as the very start by 3 kids),
  • A larger one shown by Yuna when they pray to the Faith.

Given that Blitzball was in the Dream Zanarkand we know that it was a sport played at least before the Machina War between Zanarkand and Bevelle but we don't know if Bevelle took part in it prior or during the war, only that Yevon, following the end of the war (thanks to Sin) started to adopt it. The wiki does say that

The Luca Stadium is the sole surviving blitzball stadium in Spira

Suggesting it was around before Sin to have survived, and given how far south Luca is from Zanarkand, possibly could be a Bevelle Owned Stadium. The fact that Sin does not attack Luca Stadium despite the gathering of a large number of people is probably because Yu Yevon, having been Zanarkand's leader, shows some affection for the sport itself like how Sin would be calmed by the Hymn of the Faith, thanks, in part, to Jecht.

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    nice answer. I would add that (as per the intro cinematic) that you don't need to spend the entire time within the sphere. out of bounds just seems to be an inconvenience to a player since they can't make it back to the "field" if they fall out of the bottom or sides rather than a rule – Sarfaraaz Aug 28 '18 at 8:45
  • Excellent answer, really appreciated reading! – aitía Aug 28 '18 at 14:13
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It's purely fiction and doesn't work in real life at all.

The game field is a giant sphere filled with water. All contestants dive in that water (in the game you never see them breath during a match). The Blitzball also magically floats in the middle of the sphere.

The goal is to transport the ball into the opponents goal by "throwing" and kicking it under water. Physical contact is allowed to steal the ball or to hinder the opposing team members from getting into a strategic position.

It's allowed to swim with the ball in hand (there's no dribbling or such involved), but the game is not clear about how long you can just swim on.

Now to physics... Obviously it's impossible to hold your breath for several minutes while being physically very active. The biggest problem is moving the ball, though.

You cannot "throw" or kick a ball through water. It will not get any farther than a few cm/ inches from your body because the water resists this movement. Furthermore, holding a Volleyball sized object in one hand would be hindering the players from swimming with the ball in hand.

If you want to create a working Blitz Ball sphere, it would have to be filled with air. Obviously, players cannot swim in air, so they need some other fancy way to move, like anti-gravity devices.

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    Umm... what? Why couldn't a ball have neutral buoyancy. Not everything either floats or sink, otherwise a fish's life would be rather uninteresting, and submarines rather useless..? – Edlothiad Aug 28 '18 at 5:25

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