Every country has a favorite sport, and in some cases, they are elevated to ‘national sport’ status to sustain their future.  

While most of sporting activities listed are an obvious fit based on cultural and environmental factors, there are a few surprises in there too – who knew that darts was so big in Denmark? 





Not many people outside of South America will be familiar with Pato, but it has a huge following in Argentina. It is a horseback game that combines elements of polo (another popular sport in Argentina) and basketball. Two teams consisting of four riders compete for possession of a ball which has six handles attached to it. The aim is to score points by throwing the ball through a vertically positioned ring. 

Interestingly, some people believe that Pato served as the inspiration for the (previously) fictional sport of Quidditch, as depicted in the Harry Potter book series. 





Alpine Skiing 

The Austrian Alps are ideal for a bit of downhill skiing, so there is no surprise that it is the country’s flagship sports activity.  

Another mountainous country, Slovenia, also classes alpine skiing as its national sport. 





Cricket has been an obsession in Australia ever since the British Empire brought the sport over there. There are also many former colonial nations in the Caribbean that rank cricket as their top sport (Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, and the Turks and Caicos Islands). 





Kabaddi is almost exclusively played by nations in the subcontinent of India. It is unique in that it doesn’t involve a ball or any other specific pieces of equipment. The game resembles a combination of playground tag and rugby – two teams of seven players take part with one player (the “raider”) tasked with running into the opposition half of the court to touch as many of the defending team as possible without being tackled.  






While soccer is by far the most popular sport in Brazil, it hasn’t yet been awarded ‘national sport’ status. That honor belongs to capoeira, an ancient martial art which incorporates dance and acrobatics. The capoeira fighting technique has been practiced in Brazil since the 16th century and involves complex moves, including inverted kicks launched from a handstand stance. 




Lacrosse (Summer) / Ice Hockey (Winter) 

The seasonal nature of sports in Canada has led to the country establishing two national sports. 

Lacrosse takes charge during the summer months. It is the oldest competitive sport in North America having been established by Indigenous communities across Canada in the 17th century. Today, it is especially popular at colleges and universities. 

Ice hockey is a Canadian institution that takes the country by storm every winter as the lakes begin to freeze. The National Hockey League (NHL) was founded in Canada in 1910, with US-based teams joining 14 years later. 





Table Tennis 

Ping-pong is a big deal in China, and the country’s dominance of international table tennis competitions confirms this – the Chinese have won 28 of the 32 gold medals awarded since the sport was introduced to the Olympics in 1988. 




It is hard to believe that a game that is almost exclusively played in pubs and bars could ever achieve ‘national sport’ status – but in Denmark, that is exactly what darts has done. The country may not have produced any world champions just yet, but it does host the WDF Denmark Open and Denmark Masters tournaments on an annual basis, welcoming top players from around the world. 




Cricket / Soccer / Rugby Union / Tennis 

It seems that the English have become involved in so many sports that they cannot decide which one they like best! Soccer is the most high-profile of the country’s four national sports, with the English Premier League considered to be the best in Europe (if not the world). 




Field Hockey 

Despite the fanatical frenzy that surrounds cricket in India, it is field hockey that is deemed to be the country’s national sport. Like cricket, it was introduced to India by the British military during the 19th century and has gone on to become immensely popular both at an amateur and professional level.  

It is also a national sport over the border in Pakistan. 




Gaelic Games 

Gaelic football, hurling, Gaelic handball, and rounders all come under the banner of Gaelic Games. These sports are synonymous with Irish culture and professional games command an annual audience of around 1 million spectators. 






Sumo is an ancient form of wrestling that remains largely unchanged despite being in existence for over 2,000 years. Japan holds profound respect for Sumo warriors, with successful competitors often achieving a god-like status within society. 






The sport of volleyball is usually associated with beaches of Brazil, but the game is incredibly popular in the mountains of Nepal too. This popularity led to it being named as the country’s national sport three decades ago, and since then the Nepalese national team has progressed to become strong contenders at the Asian Games. 

Volleyball is also the national sport of Sri Lanka 



Cross-Country Skiing 

Cross-country skiing is more than just a sport in Norway, the activity also doubles as a mode of transport for rural Norwegians throughout the winter when roads become impassable. 





Bandy closely resembles the game of ice hockey except it is played by two teams of 11 players on a much larger rink with a wide goal cage. Finland, Norway, and Sweden are among the few countries outside of Russia that play the sport professionally. 





The modern version of golf was formalized in 1744 by the Scottish in a place called Leith, on the outskirts of Edinburgh. The Scottish countryside is littered with magnificent golf courses such as St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Prestwick, and Royal Troon. 


United States 



Baseball has been part of American culture for well over 200 years now and the Major Leagues continue to draw in the country’s biggest crowds.  

Although baseball nearly always associated with the United States, it is also classed as a national sport in several other countries including Cuba, Dominican Republic, Taiwan, and Venezuela. 




Rugby Union 

From the playground to the pitch, rugby is an absolute institution in Wales and a great source of national pride. The national team typifies this by successfully competing toe-to-toe with much larger country’s in international competitions such as the Rugby World Cup and Six Nations Championship. 



It is interesting to see the influence that sports can have on different countries – in some cases it can even define what a nation is about. Upholding these traditions will be even more important as sports become modernized through the 21st century. 



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