Padel tennis – a new major competitive sport in the Swedish sports family or a social fad for young middle-class adults? In search of a contemporary sports breakthrough

🇸🇪 In Swedish

Johnny Wijk
Dept. of History, Stockholm University

In recent years, the sport of padel tennis has made a breakthrough on a wide front in Sweden. The sport was first established in Spain and has now gained a particularly strong foothold in Sweden. In just a few years, lots of courses have been built and large padel halls with 5–10 courses are being built all over the country. Up to half a million Swedes are said to have tried to play padel, and the Swedish Padel Association organizes around 100 clubs with about 20,000 players. The Padel Association was recently admitted into the Swedish Sports Confederation. There is widespread talk of a strong padel fever in the country. That more playful sports activities transition into organized sports with a system of rules and forms of competition happens at regular intervals, for example floorball, snowboarding, parkour, frisbee, mountain biking and other, similar spontaneous activities that have arisen from below. What distinguishes padel tennis is that when this game began to establish itself as a sport in its own right, the construction of expensive courts with high fees was required to rent by the hour; a sport appearing from above. The breakthrough of padel tennis can be understood through three different explanatory perspectives: (1) The simplicity of the game, which means that even beginners quickly experience joy with the game; (2) padel is well suited for mixed gender play; and (3) padel is a novelty that comes with a lifestyle that attracts young adults in the affluent middle classes. There is an exclusivity in playing padel, a culture where you play and then hang out with a group of friends after the game.

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JOHNNY WIJK, b. 1955 and professor of history at Stockholm University, defended his dissertation in 1992 on the rationing system on food and the black market during the Second World War entitled Svarta börsen – samhällslojalitet i kris: Livsmedelsransoneringarna och den illegala handeln i Sverige 1940-1949 [The Black Market – Social Loyalty in Crisis: Food Rationing and Illegal Trade in Sweden 1940-1949]. The studies of the war years led to an examination of the active role of the sports movement in civilian physical preparedness through various broad mass events, which included studies of the Swedish war time track and field achievements, resulted in the book Idrott, krig och nationell gemenskap: Om fältsport, riksmarscher och Gunder Hägg-feber[Sports, War and National Community: On Field Sports, National Marches and Gunder Hägg-fever](2005). At present, Wijk focuses on the development of Swedish tennis and golf from the 1950s to today.

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