The Most Popular Team Sports in Each Country

This map shows the relative internet search interest of different team sports in each country. The more of a certain color a country has, the higher the percentage share of search interest the sport of its corresponding color has in that country. The most popular sport by far is soccer (represented by the neutral color black). In fact soccer has some share of interest in every country, unlike all other sports. It is truly a global game.

Maps by Sport

BASKETBALL

After soccer, basketball has the most interest spread across the world, with fans on every continent. Despite that, there are few countries where basketball is the number one sport. Lithuania, Philippines, and China are the only countries that have over 50% of their interest in basketball.

ICE HOCKEY

Ice hockey is popular in cold, northern countries. Several countries have more interest in ice hockey than soccer, including Slovakia, Latvia, Finland, and Canada. One surprise is that United States has such low share of interest in ice hockey, despite having the NHL. This is likely due to the fact that interest in other sports like football and basketball dwarf ice hockey’s numbers in the US.

BASEBALL

Baseball is regional. The majority of its fans are in North America, Japan, and Korea. It is only the most searched for sport in Japan and the Dominican Republic. There is almost no interest in Europe, Africa, or the Middle East.

CRICKET

Cricket is wildly popular on the Indian subcontinent, but there is also some interest in cricket on every continent. Although Cricket is played in only a few countries, in many of them it dominates even soccer. One surprise was its popularity in the Middle East. One explanation is that there are many Indian expats in these countries.

VOLLEYBALL

Volleyball’s interest is quite dispersed across the globe, with the least amount of interest in Africa. It is not the dominate sport in any country. Iran, Poland, and the Philippines are the countries with the highest percentage of volleyball interest, with each having around 25%.

RUGBY

Rugby is most popular in the Southern Hemisphere, but there are also a few European countries that are interested in it too. The only country that has more than 50% of their interest in rugby is Fiji, although it has a plurality of interest in New Zealand as well.

HANDBALL

Handball is only popular in European countries. Denmark, where the sport originated from, has the highest share of interest in handball, with roughly one-third. Other Scandinavian countries and the Balkans also have some interest in the sport.

FOOTBALL

Football is most popular in the United States, but there is also some interest in it from other countries, including Canada, Ireland, Iceland, Belize, and the Bahamas. The small interest from Iceland and the Bahamas could simply come from American tourists searching for football while on vacation.

OTHER SPORTS

Some sports were only popular in one country. The only interest in hurling is in Ireland. It was surprising that Netherlands is the only country was a large share of interest in field hockey, considering it is the national sport in Pakistan and also played widely in India. Futsal has the largest percentage of interest in Bolivia.

SPORTS WITH TOO LITTLE INTEREST

Some other sports were checked, but they had too little interest in any country to be included in any map. These include Water Polo, Lacrosse, Netball, Kabadi, Gaelic Football, Curling, Bandy, Ultimate Frisbee, and Sepak Takraw.

Maps by Continent

NORTH AMERICA
SOUTH AMERICA
EUROPE
AFRICA
ASIA
OCEANIA

Methodology

Google Trends analyzes the popularity of search queries for different subjects across all languages. Google Trends was used to compare the amount of search queries for a variety of sports against each other in different countries. Only searches within the past 5 years were included. Since Google is blocked in China, a similar tool was used for China’s Google equivalent, Baidu. Since North Korea has little public search information, it was not included.

A team sport needed more than 6.25% of all qualifying sports to be included. Countries were split into increments of eight, corresponding to 12.5% of search interest per each increment.

It is important to note that this methodology does not show absolute interest, only relative. For example, some countries are just more interested in sports in general than others. Although United States has more absolute interest per capita in Ice Hockey than Kazakhstan, United States is shown in the map as having no interest in Ice Hockey since it has less of a percentage when compared to the interest in Football, Baseball, Basketball, and Soccer. Whereas in Kazakhstan, Ice Hockey simply has less competition compared to other sports.

Example

According to Google Trends, Norway had the following % of sports search interest:

Soccer – 23/37 = 62%
Handball – 8/37 = 22%
Ice Hockey – 3/37 = 8%
Basketball – 2/37 = 5%
Volleyball – 1/37 = 3%

Since Basketball and Volleyball did not have 6.25%, they did not have a large enough share of interest to be included. Only Soccer, Handball, and Ice Hockey had a large enough share. Their respective percentages were recalculated without Basketball or Volleyball.

Soccer – 23/34 = 68% or roughly 5/8
Handball – 8/34 = 24% or roughly 2/8
Ice Hockey – 3/34 = 9% or roughly 1/8

Therefore, the color scheme for Norway is Soccer (5/8 black), Handball (1/4 dark blue), and 1/8 Ice Hockey (light blue), reflected in the map below.

Color Scheme in Scandinavia

1 Comment

  1. I’m not so sure about the entire premise here, that internet searches translates into popularity. First, you have millions of older people who either don’t use the internet or at least don’t bother looking up sports there. Then there’s all the poor people who can’t afford even a smart phone. And there’s the basic question of whether some sports inspire more online activity than others of equal popularity. Nobody knows the answer to these questions, and more. I’d stick to titles that you can back up with all your data, something like “Most popular sports on the internet”.

    Like

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