Sports Around the World
Since the dawn of man, people have been engaging in some form of sports. Whether for exercise or for fun, sports is a huge part of the history of mankind. But have you ever wondered about the different types of sports world-wide? Most Americans never make it past Sunday Night Football, but did you know that worldwide, soccer has nearly ten times the number of fans than American football? And did you know that there’s a relatively small but rabid group of rugby devotees Down Under in Australia? And what about the game of cricket? Never heard of it? You’re not alone—most Americans haven’t, but based on the number of players and the number of fans, this baseball-like game is the fifth most popular game in the world! Here, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular sports you’ll find worldwide, and we’ll even delve into some seriously weird sports that you haven’t heard of—and for good reason! Toe wrestling, anyone?
Without a doubt, American football is the uncontested king of sports here in the United States. With teams to represent nearly all of the 50 states, football has a huge following of wildly devoted fans willing to spend a pretty penny to get choice seats at games. In fact, total revenues during the 2016 football season were a staggering $7.2 billion. That’s more money than the GDP of many, many small countries!
But it’s no surprise; it’s quite difficult to find someone in the United States who’s not a football fan. According to some reports, football games on TV are viewed by more than 20 million people. That makes football a boon for advertisers, with some paying upwards of five million dollars for a sliver of highly coveted airtime during the Super Bowl, which typically airs in January.
So by now it’s clear that America loves its football. But in literally the rest of the free world, soccer (which, confusingly, is called “football” everywhere except the U.S.) reigns supreme. According to FIFA, roughly 4% of the world’s population plays soccer, either professionally, for fun, or on a rec league. Soccer is wildly popular across all of Europe, and this popularity easily extends to bordering regions like Africa and the Far East. It’s also by far the most popular sport in all of South America.
Soccer’s viewership makes that of the NFL seem downright paltry; it’s estimated that around 700 million viewers tune in for the FIFA World Cup, and soccer’s total fan base is in the billions. It’s interesting to note that revenues from soccer are much lower than those of football, measuring near $700 million in revenues during the 2010 World Cup.
Australia and surrounding
A sport every bit as rough as American football without any of the padding is rugby, and no one plays it like the Aussies. The sport of rugby enjoys a comparatively small but absolutely rabid fan base across Australasia. Fans regularly gather in bars hours before the games, ensuring that the crowd is whipped into a frenzy within moments of the start of the game. The National Rugby League is comprised of 16 teams with funny-sounding names like the Rabbitohs and the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles. But make no mistake; there’s nothing funny about what happens on the rugby field, though we’re sure there’s more than enough comedy to be found in the stands!
India and surrounding
While Major League Baseball keeps us pretty busy over here for eight months of the year, there’s a similar sport called cricket that’s majorly popular in India and surrounding regions. A ball-and-bat cousin to baseball, cricket is played on a circular field rather than the iconic baseball diamond, and players use a flat bat instead of a rounded one. Most Americans have never heard of cricket, or at best have only witnessed a group of guys playing a pick-up game after work. But reports indicate that in terms of average viewership, cricket is the fifth most popular game in the world. Cricket revenues are in the hundreds of millions, coming mainly from advertising revenues during large matches, similar to American football.
The World’s Weirdest Sports
Now that we know what the most popular sports in the world are, let’s take a look at some of the least popular. From the wacky to the tacky to the downright insane, here are some of the sports you didn’t know you didn’t know about.
Soccer sounds kind of banal to you? No worries, there’s always fireball soccer. This game, which, not surprisingly, involves a fiery ball, is popular in Indonesia.
Popular in England, this off-the-wall sport involves a large group of men eager to chase a wheel of cheese down a (very) steep hill. It may sound quaint, but injuries are common in this sport, where the players will readily trample one another to be the first to the cheese.
In the latest version of “things that just shouldn’t go together” is chess boxing, in which competitors alternate between rounds of boxing and playing chess. According to Wikipedia, this bizarre game is popular in Germany, the UK, India, and Russia.
Well isn’t that a kick in the...shins. This bruise-inducing sport originated in England in the early 17th century, and is considered an early (and painful!) form of martial arts. The game still continues today, and remains pretty popular in England. Nevertheless, we’ll pass.
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