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The Sporting Landscape in Timor-Leste 

Timor-Leste has had major interest in martial arts for many years, it has had a dark past with previous martial arts being banned due to the civil unrest these clubs created during times of conflict. The martial arts style in particular Pencak Silat was used as a way of intimidation for political groups and was perceived as ‘gangs. The main gangs prevalent were known as Seven Seven and PSHT.

“A lot of these Martial Art groups (like Seven Seven and PSHT) used their skills and weapons training to intimidate locals and did not represent martial arts as a whole and gave it a bad name”

Kent McGovern (Business Owner Expat Australian living in Timor-Leste)

The Role of Sport in particular Muay Thai Boxing

Sport is an important contributor to service economy, so it has a responsibility to promote healthy living and morals standards of the community. The Generation Muay Thai: Project Timor-Leste team did an outstanding campaign to promote Muay Thai. The list shows initiatives we implemented to promote the sport in a positive way:

  • Meetings with government officials.

  • Demonstration/workshops at schools.

  • Public speaking/ appearances at social events.

  • Demonstrations and Public speaking at the Timor Plaza the main shopping complex of Timor-Leste.

  • An exhibition show demonstrating Muay Thai skills with distinguished guests.

  • Our project having a short two-minute segment on our goals on Timor-Leste’s National Network.

  • Visited current boxing clubs to develop relationships

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Sport in general increases social capital and fosters strong relationships within the community, Muay Thai is a sport that trains all fitness components but the most important component it trains is character. Muay Thai is strongly based around Respect and Fair play; it has a responsibility to show the community of the positive character building it will instil on individuals if participating in the sport. Based on the feedback from teachers and students from schools in our workshops they found the sport to be fun, different and challenging. We believe in the future Muay Thai can be a mainstream sport in Timor Leste if planning and structures are put in place.

“Muay Thai is steeped with traditions, ritual and respect a marital art that other practiced here doesn’t base itself around”


Jose Ramos Horta (Former President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner)

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