Most Popular Sports in the World

National sports are those sports so popular in a country that they become an intrinsic part of its culture. Some nations even have a national sport by law, but most simply consider it the most practiced and followed.

In the case of countries that have established a national sport by law, sometimes that sport is not the most popular or practiced, although in some way it is a fundamental part of their culture. This is the case, for example, of the capoeira in Brazil, the Lacrosse in Canada, the Kabaddi in Bangladesh, the duck in Argentina, the charrería in Mexico or the gaucho horseman in Uruguay. They are not the most popular sports in these nations; football is in the case of Latin American countries, ice hockey in Canada and cricket in Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, in other countries, there is no law that indicates that the sport is considered a national sport, but the population and the media have declared it that way because of its popularity. It is the case of baseball in Cuba, the prodal in Cambodia, Taekwondo in South Korea or Muay Thai in Thailand, they are practically an unofficial religion. But in most countries, there is no national sport, but there is a sport that is the most popular and practiced.

Soccer, the Most Global Sport

Without a doubt, if there is a global sport practiced throughout the world and being the most popular in a large number of countries is football, predominant in almost all Latin America and Africa, in half Europe and increasingly in more parts of Asia. In total there are 85 countries where it is the most followed and practiced sport. Among the reasons for its unstoppable extension, the ease to understand it and play it together with the low price of the necessary material since you only need a ball and basic clothing. In addition, FIFA’s efforts to continue increasing its globalization have had its effect although they have also caused numerous cases of corruption.
The universalization of football has paralleled its consolidation as a great business.

Cricket and Baseball, Popular Disciplines in Many Countries

After football, cricket is the most popular sport in 24 countries, including India, Australia, or Pakistan. And it is also one of the most followed in a number of spectators since India is the second-most populous country in the world. As an example, the match between India and Pakistan of last year’s cricket World Cup was seen by 1,000 million spectators despite the fact that sometimes their matches can last up to five days since when it rains they stop. The Super Bowl, on the other hand, is seen for just over a hundred million every year, although in the light of marketing it would seem otherwise. One of the reasons for its popularity is that it was spread by the British Empire in its colonies. Baseball is the third most practiced sport in a number of countries with 15 nations, including Japan, South Korea and Venezuela.

Rugby, the Great Sport of the Southern Hemisphere

Rugby is one of the disciplines that arouses most fidelity in the countries where it is practiced mostly and thus, despite being the national sport in «only» 15 countries, among which South Africa and New Zealand stand out, every time there is a World Cup it becomes the third most followed major sporting event in the world after the Olympic Games and the World Cups.

Fighting Disciplines and Boxing

The different types of fighting disciplines and boxing are the national sport of a good number of countries, more specifically 15, among which Vietnam, Iran, Ukraine, North Korea or Bulgaria stand out. These are disciplines that date back several centuries and, since then, their practice gradually became universal. There have always been those who criticize their violence and affirm that they should be banned but also those who passionately defend their practice and gloss the nobility of their values.

Athletics and Basketball, Two Universal Sports

While they are not national sports in a large number of nations, basketball is the predominant discipline in 13 countries, including the Philippines, the Baltic Republics or the countries that formed the former Yugoslavia. Athletics is the most popular sport in 10 nations with Kenya and Ethiopia at the head. These two disciplines are practiced in practically all the countries of the world, so their World Cups have a great following, only surpassed by football and rugby.

The Most Widespread Winter Sports Worldwide

Latitude, climate and temperature condition the possibility of practicing certain sports in some countries where the presence of snow for several months a year makes winter disciplines the most practiced and followed. This is the case with ice hockey, a national sport in seven countries, Russia, Canada, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland, and Switzerland. Meanwhile, skiing in its different variants is the most loved and followed discipline in five European states such as Austria, Norway, Slovenia, Liechtenstein and Andorra.

Other Popular Disciplines in the World

It is curious that the two great world economic powers have their own national sports and do not share them with other nations. While American football is the first sport in the US, table tennis is China’s mass sport, partly because of the limited space and means necessary to practice it.

For its part, cycling, largely practiced in Europe, is the national sport in five countries: Belgium, Luxembourg, Colombia, Kazakhstan, and Burkina Faso. Another discipline with a lot of pull in the old continent, handball, is the favorite sport in Denmark, Greenland, and Iceland, while water polo is the favorite in Hungary as well as golf in Scotland.