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The short answer, infuriatingly, is both yes and no. There are quite a few international championship tournaments, some of which even use the name World Cup, but is there an official world championship? No.
One of the main reasons for this is that there is not yet a single world governing body for the sport. It’s the same story with boxing, which has four bodies, the WBA, the WBC, the IBF and the WBO. Although they recognize each other’s rankings and there is a unification process whereby a holder of all four titles is crowned the undisputed world champion, there isn’t one championship. The same is true of tennis, which has four grand slams but no overarching tournament. It’s very different with soccer, one of the world’s truly international sports, where there's one body, FIFA, organizing the World Cup every four years with teams from every continent competing.
For the moment, although it’s a global sport that’s growing in popularity, paintball doesn’t have its own FIFA. What it does have is international competitions that span the globe. These are the ones that come closest to world championship status.
The National XBall League is the sport’s premier league in the U.S. and Europe. That means its reach is not fully global, but it does organize an event that goes by the name World Cup, with teams from all over Europe crossing the Atlantic to compete with North American teams on their home territory. It’s an innovative and exciting mix of professionals, semi-professionals and amateurs, all using the highest-quality tournament equipment like the Planet Eclipse GTEK and the Empire Axe.
The involvement of so many of the game’s leading nations has led to the NXL World Cup being seen as the de facto world championship, and it’s certainly a prestigious event. A team that acquits itself well in this tournament is likely to benefit from sponsorship deals and may even attract funding from investors who can tell which way the wind is blowing for paintball.
Far away on the other side of the world is another pretender for the title of World Championship. Like the NXL, it is based on home territory, and although that may give an advantage to teams from Malaysia, Japan and Indonesia as well as Australia and New Zealand, the organizers are at pains to attract teams from further afield like India, South Africa, France and Germany. Again, it’s a World Cup in name more than in nature, and the lack of American participation prevents it from being definitive.
The United Paintball Federation holds this event in Europe. Despite the extravagant claim of its name, it features eclectic but incomplete participation. There are teams representing Canada, Venezuela and Russia as well as several European teams, but with no representatives from the U.S., the UK or the Far East, it isn’t global enough to qualify.
Just as soccer has its European Championships, the European branch of the NXL organizes its own European competition. It’s a great event, with the cream of European Paintball professionals competing for the crown, but it can’t claim to be a world tournament. Europe also has the EPBF European Championships, and there is an even more geographically limited competition called the Nordic Paintball Championship whose participants are restricted to the Scandinavian countries.
It’s worth mentioning this South African event. As you can see from its name, it doesn’t pretend to have world championship status, but what is most significant about it is the opportunity it gives for paintball players in the emerging nations of Africa to be recognized for the skilled sportspeople they are. It’s one of a proliferation of geographically specific tournaments around the world demonstrating that the sport’s appeal knows no national or cultural borders and supports the argument for the establishment of a truly global event one day.
In short, paintball doesn’t have anything that could honestly be described as a World Championship. The sport flourishes across the globe, even though it’s probably safe to say that the U.S. is its spiritual and actual home. We have an abundance of leagues at every level, and the NXL World Cup may one day expand sufficiently to fill the role that currently stands vacant. But while there may be no unifying title to be won, there are fantastic competitions both here and around the world showcasing the skills, talent and sheer excitement that make paintball an international phenomenon.
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