The Most Popular Sports in the World

Football. From streets to stadiums, the beautiful game is played all over the world. It’s a sport that everyone understands – kick a ball, score a goal. Whether it’s hit, struck, passed, or caught, a ball is at the heart of many of the most popular sports. Even those that don’t involve a ball still revolve around fixed rules and physical effort. Ready to play?

Top ten most popular sports worldwide

Football - the most popular sport in the world
football – the most popular sport in the world. Photo: pixabay

The most popular sports could mean most watched, most played, or most revenue-generating. This list considers all three factors, with football topping the charts for all of them.

  1. Football
  2. Cricket
  3. Tennis
  4. Hockey
  5. Baseball
  6. Basketball
  7. Volleyball
  8. Table tennis
  9. Rugby
  10. Golf

How to be a good sport

Grrr… it’s easy to fly off the handle playing a game. A tricky opponent, a disappointing performance, or a suspicion of cheating can all add fuel to the fire. Show what a good sport you are with these top tips.

  1. Learn the rules of the game, so you know what’s right and wrong.

  2. Listen to your coach so you can improve your game.

  3. Shake hands with your opponents and the referee before and after the game.

  4. Be prepared to sit out a game so a teammate can have a go, even if you’re the star player.

  5. Don’t show off. Just play your best and people will notice you.

  6. Don’t cheat or blame your teammates when decisions are not going your way.

  7. Keep a clear head. Congratulate your teammates and opponents on their performance, regardless of the outcome.

Tribal traditions

Many rugby teams from the southern hemisphere don war paint and perform traditional dances to prepare themselves and intimidate their opponents before big international matches.

Sporting superstars



Scoring 77 goals for his country (a national record), the legendary Brazilian is regarded as football’s perfect player.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan

The US basketball star had an incredible scoring rate and defensive record during the 1980s and 1990s.

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth. Photo: Census Bureau

Playing for 20 years from 1914, Babe Ruth is the most celebrated baseball player in US history.

Jonah Lomu

Jonah Lomu
Jonah Lomu. Photo: Getty

In 1994, New Zealand rugby player Jonah Lomu became the youngest player for the All Blacks aged 19.

Cathy Freeman

Cathy Freeman
Cathy Freeman. Photo: Risk Stevens/SMH

Australian sprinter Cathy Freeman won gold in the 400m race at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, and World Championships.

Martina Navratilova

Martina Navratilova
Martina Navratilova

Czech-born Martina Navratilova won 59 tennis titles (18 singles, 31 doubles, and 10 mixed doubles).

Ellen MacArthur

Ellen MacArthur
Ellen MacArthur

This British yachtswoman broke the world record for fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe in 2005.

Jack Nicklaus

Jack Nicklaus
Jack Nicklaus

Known as “Golden bear‘, this US golfer won a record-breaking 18 titles in a career spanning 25 years.

Bizarre sporting terms

A fielder who stands very close to the batter in cricket.

Running with a football under close control, mainly using the outside and top of the foot.

When a beach volleyball player jumps above the net to smash the ball hard at the ground.

A zero-point score in a tennis game.

These golfing terms refer to the par (standard number of golf strokes) for each hole. “Birdie” means a score of one stroke under par, “eagle” means a score of two strokes under par, and “albatross” is a very rare three strokes under par.

Sound idea

In 2008, the first blind tennis tournament was held in the UK, A bell inside the tennis ball helps the players keep track of it during rallies, while tactile lines around the court assist them in finding their way.

In numbers

The time, in seconds, that it takes a volleyball to travel from one baseline of the court to the other when sewed by a top player at a speed of 194 kph (121 mph).

The total number of paying spectators at the Olympic croquet final in 1900, the first and last time the sport was played at the Games.

The number of left-handed tennis players to have won a Wimbledon singles title.

The highest margin in an international rugby match, when Argentina beat Paraguay 152-0 in 2002.

The number of hits during one 60-second table tennis rally between two female players in 1973.

259 kph
(155 mph) The fastest recorded tennis serve, delivered by Andy Roddick at the UK’s Stella Artois Championships in 2004.

The highest ever individual score in a cricket match, made by Brian Lara for Warwickshire in 1994.

The number of strokes in a single squash rally, recorded in the UK in 2004.

How many spectators watched the 1950 World Cup game between Brazil and Uruguay, the highest ofiicial attendance at a football match.

5 million
Football officials worldwide.

20 million
Netball players worldwide.

1 billion
The average global audience for football’s World Cup final.

Odd origins

French monks fist played tennis in about the 11th century. The name ‘tennis’ “take this’ in French. which the monks would shout as they served the ball.

Table tennis
This sport began in Victorian England, when dinner guests turned their tables into mini tennis courts and used their champagne corks as balls,

During the 14th century, French peasants used wooden mallets to whack a wooden ball through hoops of bent branches.

This game saw first played using peach baskets on poles for hoops. If a team scored, the reference climbed a ladder to get the ball.

You won’t believe it!

The only sport to be played on the Moon is golf. In 1971, Apollo 14’s US astronaut Alan Shepard landed on the lunar surface and struck two golf balls. He described the balls as going for “miles and miles and miles!”