Jogo da Malha – Jogos Tradicionais

A few weeks ago we returned to Praia do Vale dos Homens to show friends the pair of white storks we’d discovered nesting on an outcrop of rocks. As we drove through the back streets of the sleepy village of Rogil we noticed a group of elderly men gathered on some waste ground. 

What are they doing we wondered...
What are they doing we wondered...

Some were pacing up and down, and then bending down as if to examine something, while others sat on an assortment of old chairs and upturned boxes watching intently.

Curiosity got the better of us so we stopped the car to observe proceedings from a discreet distance. As you can see from the photograph the men are congregating round an arrow-straight concrete strip about 20 meters long.

The men are congregating round an arrow-straight concrete strip about 20 meters long.
The men are congregating round an arrow-straight concrete strip about 20 meters long.

Some of the men were holding two square metal discs with rounded corners which they then slid/threw with more force than precision (to my untrained eye) along the strip of concrete to dislodge a wooden pin situated at the far end.

I was fascinated, and even, almost, but not quite, plucked up courage to ask one of the spectators the name of the game they were watching. This is where I become so cross and frustrated with myself becuase I lack  courage confidence in using my limited Portuguese.  So I sat in the car taking photographs instead.  Even my friend felt frustrated by my lack of courage, took my camera and positioned herself to take a unobscructed photograph of the concrete strip.

The moment I returned home I plagued Mr Google for answers. Nothing!
Well what did I expect using such a vague search term as “Portuguese men playing a game with metal discs”. I then emailed a couple of Portuguese subscribers who comment on my blog. Result – they thought the name of the game was Jogo da Malha.

Jogo da Malha, or Jogo de Chinquilho as it is called in some areas of Portugal, is a traditional Portuguese game reported to date back to the 15th Century.

Jogo da Malha - Meco and Mesh
Jogo da Malha - Pino (Meco) and Mesh

The game is played on a hard surface, and as you can see from the photographs of the game we observed, there is a long concrete strip sprinkled with what looks like sand or fine grit. A wooden pin called a meco is set up at the far end of the track and the players slide/throw a metal disc (mesh) to knock down the pino (meco). Please note the game does vary in that I have noticed in most photographs on other websites there is not a concrete strip, just hard ground. The discs may also be thrown and in some cases even stones are used.

I struggled with translation issues to find information I could use concerning the rules as they seemed to vary. I smiled because when I used Google translate for some text I was presented with

Player or team that knock down the stick a time will be able to still obtain that to another one sweater thrown stay more near to the stick that the of the adversary, being able to in that case earn 3 points; THE Player that knock down the stick twice will obtain 4 points; case the sweaters that They knocked down the stick they stay
more near to this that the of the adversary, will earn 6 points. The stick after knocked down is put once again in the same small farm where was, small farm that that previously should be designated.

However, I eventually struck lucky and found a website advertising a Jogo da Malha tournament. Unfortunately since I last visited the site a few weeks ago, my anti-virus software is now alerting me the site poses a security threat and is unsafe.

Rules of the game
(as far as I can tell)

There appears to be so many variations to the rules across the country that I’ve taken an overview from a Portuguese organisation who have organised a Jogo de Malha tournament.

* Each team consists of two players and each game consists of two teams. The players have two meshes each.
* The meshes are 9.5cm with a weight of approximately 1.3kg. The mecos are approximately 20cm high and 5cm diameter
* The minimum distance between the pinos (mecos) is 12 mtrs with a maximum of 16 mtrs
* A perpendicular line one mtere in front of the pini (meco) will mark the zone of launching the meshes
* Each player has two meshes which they throw alternately to topple the meco and leave as close as possible.
* When the meco is toppled they gain 4 points for their team

This part became lost in translation:
“after the four meshes plays, they get closer to the pino (meco) sum 2 points, and a team scoring 4 points if your two fabrics are the closest of meco, being the partner of the player whose fabric won the points who will first and third releases of meshes, and so on”

* The first team to achieve 30 points wins the game.
* Each match consists of a maximum of five games.

A friend in Northern Portugal advised

In some areas this is called Jogo de Malha
In my area it’s called Jogo de Chinquilho & has different rules
Same disc are used back & forwards between both players

Need a fairly hard surface – 2 pins at a distance from 12-18 meters
1 Player each end with a round metal disc
Whoever plays 1st has 2 disc’s & they throw to knock over pin.
Pin down 2 points – nearest to Pin 1 point
If ONE player get’s both discs very close to the Pin without knocking it over they count as 2 points each
Game finished when 1 player reaches 31 points
Rules seem rather complicated ?

I try, but to be honest sometimes researching a topic using only Portuguse websites is like trying to do a doublesided sky jigsaw puzzle. (I only have the edges and corners for clues)

If anyone has any further information about this game I would love to know more.


23 thoughts on “Jogo da Malha – Jogos Tradicionais

Add yours

  1. My wife was born in Sao Joao Da Madeira. She tells me the men used to play this there as well, though she remembers that the mesh was round and was called something else, uma malha, and was round.
    She also said the’ pino’ was just banged in a bare stretch of dirt.


    1. Hi arenaten, when I was trying to research this game, some of the websites pictures showed the metal disc as round and the the pino in a bare stretch of dirt. In some pictures it even showed people throwing rather than sliding the mesh/malha. I need to go back to the original website (it had a virus last time I looked) thanks so much for sharing 🙂


  2. I think that the “meco” it’s called “pino”. There’s a book about “Jogos Populares Portugueses” by António Cabral (it’s in portuguese….)


  3. Sounds a bit like Bocce Ball . . . or Horseshoes . . . or Shuffleboard . . . or Bowling . . . or Curling.

    Glad you figured out the “name of the game.” 😀


  4. Sounds almost like our game called horseshoes. You try to toss the horseshoe where it lands ring around the stake instead of knocking it down. Most interesting… Great observation photos. It’s enjoyable learning about other cultures games and entertainments. Thanks for sharing. 🙂


  5. So it’s a version of “Jogo da Malha”. I actually played a northern Portugal version once on a picnic a very long time ago. I remember it was fun but I can’t remember the rules at all.


  6. Very interesting. I don’t recall my relatives playing anything like this. But it does sound like a good way to pass the time outside, provided you live in a sunny climate like Portugal.


  7. Piglet, Himself is studying advanced Portugese… could you please email me the Portuguese text?… and I’ll ask him to have a bash at a translation of a missing bits for you.
    It’s like a cross between Curling, Bowls and Boules don’t you think?


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