A World Tour Of Athletics: The Most Popular Sports By Country

Sports are often a huge part of national pride. You don’t have to look much further than the Olympics or the World Cup to see that sports are much more than just a game. Not all sports are created equal, however. You won’t see people get quite so upset over fencing as they might over […]

Sports are often a huge part of national pride. You don’t have to look much further than the Olympics or the World Cup to see that sports are much more than just a game. Not all sports are created equal, however. You won’t see people get quite so upset over fencing as they might over soccer (or association football). And the most popular sports by country can differ quite a bit. Cricket, for one example, is huge in the United Kingdom and India, but it hasn’t ever really made it big in the United States. 

What are the most popular sports by country, then? This can be a complex question to answer. While some countries have sports that are clearly popular — judging by TV viewership or other metrics — it’s sometimes difficult to quantify. That is to say, some people might disagree on what the most popular sport in a country is. Indonesia, for example, is most successful at badminton, but its most popular spectator sport is association football. In any case, we did our best to find the most popular sports in every country.

First, Association Football (Or Soccer)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular sport in most countries is the same: football. To make things simpler, we’ll just name every country where football is considered the most popular sport in alphabetical order: Albania, Algeria, American Samoa, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia Cameroon, Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, the Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Ethiopia, France, French Guiana, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mali, Malta, Martinique, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, the Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Palestine, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, San Marino, São Tomé and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, the Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, South Sudan, Spain, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Most Popular Sports By Country

Afghanistan — Cricket.

Anguilla — Boatracing. 

Antigua and Barbuda — Cricket.

Australia — Australian Football. This is a sport that’s kind of like a cross between American football (the ball is an oval and you can throw the ball around) and association football (there’s more kicking than in American football). It’s also sometimes played on a cricket pitch.

The Bahamas — Basketball. The national sport of the Bahamas is cricket, but the most popular are basketball and American football.

Bangladesh — Cricket.

Barbados — Cricket.

Bhutan — Archery.

Canada — Ice Hockey.

China — Basketball. Though in China, it’s hard to say exactly which sport deserves the top spot. Table tennis, association football, badminton and volleyball are all very popular.

Cuba — Baseball.

The Dominican Republic — Baseball.

Estonia — Basketball.

Fiji — Rugby.

Finland — Ice Hockey.

Guadeloupe — Windsurfing.

Guyana — Cricket.

India — Cricket. 

Ireland — Gaelic Football. For a long time, association football was the favorite in Ireland, but Gaelic football overtook it in 2018. If you’re not familiar, it’s a bit like the other kind of football, but players can handle the ball with their hands.

Jamaica — Cricket.

Japan — Baseball.

Latvia — Ice Hockey.

Lithuania — Basketball.

The Marshall Islands — Basketball.

Mongolia — Mongolian Wrestling. It’s one of the three sports — along with horse racing and archery — played during Naadam, which is a very popular festival of games in the country.

Nauru — Australian Football.

Nepal — Cricket. 

New Caledonia — Rugby.

New Zealand — Rugby.

Nicaragua — Baseball.

Pakistan — Cricket. 

Palau — Baseball.

Panama — Baseball.

Papua New Guinea — Rugby.

The Philippines — Basketball.

Puerto Rico — Baseball.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines — Cricket.

Sri Lanka — Cricket.

Taiwan — Baseball.

Tonga — Rugby.

Trinidad and Tobago — Cricket.

The United States — American Football. While baseball was once the most popular sport (it is America’s Pastime, after all), American football has been the favorite since the 1960s. If you zoom in, though, baseball and basketball are the favorites in certain states (as well as hockey being the favorite in Alaska). 

Venezuela — Baseball. 

Wallis and Futuna — Rugby.

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