Europe is rich in history, culture, and tradition. This continent is composed of countries that differ as much as Namibia differs from Russia. Each country has different languages, customs, and beliefs. There is one thing, however, that brings them together – sports.
Many European sports are developed from traditional games played on the continent for hundreds of years. In fact, some of those are the precursors to many of the popular sports around the world.
The origins of many popular sports today sit in Europe and, more specifically, Great Britain. This article will share the sports that became popular in the whole European continent, so check out the most played sports in Europe below.
As one of the rising sports in the world, eSports also starts to dominate European countries by storm. According to a study, the European esports audience reached 92 million by the end of 2020.
Finland is a top country that shows the drastic growth in eSports participation that includes national and international competitions. Local eSports players also started to grow in numbers in streaming sites.
Some of the most popular eSport game brands in the continent are Call of Duty, League of Legends, and FIFA.
One of the most popular traditional sports in Ireland is the Gaelic Games. There are six specific games under the Galic Games family. These are Hurling, Gaelic football, Handball, Rounders, Camogie, and Ladies Football.
These games are starting to gain popularity even in other European countries. Television broadcasts helped in gaining attention from viewers and fans.
The European Board of the Gaelic Athletic Association holds an annual competition on the family games for the sport. There are identified regions that can also hold regional competitions for club teams for the sport.
Badminton is one of the most popular racquet sports in the world. It also has a fair share of popularity in Europe. According to some sources, the sport was named “badminton” after it was played in Badminton House in Gloucestershire, England.
Denmark is known to have the best badminton program across Europe, for they dominated European championships. In fact, they have won the last 12 out of 19 mixed team championships at the continental level.
There are numerous local, national, and continental competitions for the sport. Aside from Denmark and the UK, badminton is also popular in Sweden.
Snooker is a cue sport played on a rectangular table with six pockets. The game uses cue sticks to strike the cue ball to shoot the snooker balls in the pockets.
The sport can be dated in the second half of the 19th century. Based on the records, it was the British army who played this in India. From a recreational activity, it has grown to a professional and competitive sport.
There is a growing number of snooker players and fans in these European countries: the United Kingdom, Poland, Bulgaria, Belgium, and Germany.
Gymnastics, as a sport, has been popular in Europe since Ancient Greece. The term where gymnastics originated means to facilitate bodily movements through discipline exercises that involve body control, coordination, dexterity, gracefulness, and other acrobatic skills.
Gymnastics carried on to be practiced during ancient Rome and until the present. The sport has been included in the modern Olympics since 1896.
European Gymnastics is the official delegation of the continent in the International Gymnastics Federation. As of 2015, there are 50 member-federations across different countries of Europe that show how popular the sport is in the continent.
Darts is now becoming globally popular. It is a sport that involves throwing darts, small sharp-pointed missiles, at a round target called the dartboard. The board contains points corresponding to the area where the dart would land.
The competitive sport started as a recreational activity in the pubs of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Since then, it has evolved into a wildly popular sport across Europe and even in the world.
The popularity of dart can be attributed to television broadcasts of the competitions. In the recent 2020 PDC World Championships, the television networks recorded millions of viewers in countries like the UK, the Netherlands, and Germany.
The sport of cycling is highly popular in different European countries such as Italy, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, France, Spain, and the Netherlands. Note that almost all the prestigious world cycling competitions are held in Europe.
The biggest and most prestigious race for professional cyclists is the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia in Italy, and Vuelta de España in Spain.
Due to its popularity, the cycling industry in Europe is potent because people do cycling as a recreational activity. One of the reasons why the sport is popular in Europe is because of the country’s vow to cycling safety on roads and their advocacy for it.
Futsal is a team sport played with two teams of five members each and a goalkeeper where unlimited submission is allowed. It is a football game that is usually played indoors and on the hardcourt.
The Union of European Football Associations or UEFA started organizing international futsal competitions in the 1990s. Even though it is one of the newer sports, the popularity continues to rise across European countries.
The top countries where futsal is widely popular and produces great futsal players are from Europe, such as Spain, Portugal, and France.
Motorcycle racing is an event that involves motorcycle road racing and off-road racing, which can either be closed circuits, open courses, or track courses. Some of the events related to the sport are drag racing and hill climb racing.
The sport was already popular in Europe in the early 1900s as they held the Grand Prix motorcycle racing sanctioned by Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM).
The annual events include four classes which are MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3, and MotoE. The first three use four-stroke engines, while MotoE uses an electric engine.
One of the popular sports from the hockey family, field hockey, is a team sport of ten field players and a goalkeeper. The sport can be played across different fields such as grass, watered turf, synthetic field, indoor boarded surface, etc.
The modern field hockey roots in the United Kingdom. The establishment of the Euro Hockey League made its impact on the popularity of the sport across European nations.
As proof, Belgium is considered to be a powerhouse team in the men’s division, and the Netherlands for the women’s division. Lastly, field hockey has been an Olympic sport since the 1920 Antwerp Games.
Formula One or most commonly known as F1, involves the highest class of auto racing, a single-seater formula racing car. The said international competition is governed by Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).
Europe is considered to be the main market of F1 racing. In the 2019 F1 racing broadcast, most viewers came from the following European countries: Germany, Italy, UK, and the Netherlands.
There are several competitions and cups held in different European countries, but one of the most famous ones is the European Grand Prix for F1 racing that started in the 1980s.
Skiing is one of the most popular sports in Europe during the winter as the continent is known to be the world’s skiing capital. It is considered to be a competitive sport and recreational activity at the same time.
In the 2019 record, Germany holds the most number of people who went skiing with over 14 million. It was followed by France and the UK. This can be related to the popularity of the Alps as a haven for world-class ski resorts.
The competitions for skiing ranges from small local events to national and continental events. Competitive skiing is classified into Alpine, Nordic, and freestyle events, and some competitions include snowboarding and speed skiing.
The sport of horse racing is one of the most well-loved sports-activities in the world. It typically involves horses being ridden by jockeys for a short distance. The sport is usually highly-attended by fans, people who love to bet, and people who are into outdoor activity.
In the United Kingdom, horse racing is the second largest sport-attracting viewers after football. There are a lot of different cups, racing events, and even royal competitions for the sport. The venues for the sport in the UK can hold over a hundred thousand people.
Meanwhile, in France, they hold the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the sporting event that is the richest race in Europe. Also, this horse racing competition is the second-largest turf race in the world.
Handball is a team sport of two teams who intend to shoot the ball on the opposing team’s goal while passing the ball using the hands only.
This growing sport has its European roots, which can be traced back to Ancient Rome. Also, there is a sport played resembling handball in Northern Europe, like Germany and Denmark, in the late 19th century.
The first official rules set was published in 1906 in Denmark. At present, handball is highly popular in European countries such as Hungary, France, and the Scandanavian countries.
Aside from local club team competitions for water polo, there are national and continental leagues that hone the players and are considered as a powerhouse team in the world.
European teams have continuously dominated the World Aquatics Championships. They also have won several editions of the Women’s Championship.
Ligue Européenne de Natation (LEN) is one of the main responsible for the popularity of the sport as they held continental competitions biannually. At present, there are over 30 countries that participate in the men’s division and over 20 countries for the women’s division.
Being the home where the Olympics originated, it is no doubt that athletics is still one of the most popular sports in Europe.
The continent holds some of the most prestigious international competitions in different events in athletics. Also, the European Athletics Championships, held by European Athletics Association, is the biggest athletics competition in the continent.
This biannual tournament is participated by 43 European nations at present, but it started as early as 1934.
Volleyball is a team sport that is played by two opposing teams separated by a net. The main goal of the game is to volley the ball across the opponent’s side of the court, and one can score a point if the opponent cannot return the ball back following the set rule.
Europe is a powerhouse in the sport of volleyball. Russia, for example, has already won four Olympic gold medals in the sport, and the latest was in the 2012 London Games for the men’s division.
The popularity roots back to the sport’s domestic professional leagues that boost the competitiveness of the nation in continental competitions such as the CEV DenizBank Volleyball Champions League for men’s volleyball and the Women’s European Volleyball League.
The term “tennis” became the name of the game, which came from an old French word, “tenez,” meaning hold, take, or receive. The origin of tennis can be traced to France during the 12th century. Tennis was derived from a handball game called “jeu de paume,” or the game of the palm.
Modern game tennis started in the late 19th century in England. This sport is played by millions of people in public courts or private clubs. The rise in popularity of tennis began when major championships were opened, and the games were broadcasted on television.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is the world governing body of the sport, which authorized the rules to be followed by an organized tennis game. The French Open, also called Roland Garros in Paris, is one of the only four hosts of the tennis Grand Slams.
Golf is a club game that was introduced in Europe in the middle ages. Nowadays, golf has become one of the most-searched-for sports. Many people from countries in Europe play golf. According to statistics, Europe has a total of 5.3 million registered golfers and just under 7,000 courses.
One of the reasons why this sport is popular among Europeans is because of the accessibility of golf. This game is a lot safer and not prone to injuries compared to contact sports.
To play golf, a player should hit a small ball using different clubs from a set of starting points called teeing grounds and make the ball drop into a series of holes on a course. The player who used the perfect club to get the ball in with the lowest number of strokes wins.
There are two branches of rugby sport developed, namely, rugby union and rugby league. Rugby league has a restricted tackle scheme, while rugby union does not have any but has maintained the use of scrums.
Rugby Union came into existence in 1821 in the town of Rugby in England. Based on a story, the rugby union started from a school where a young William Webb Ellis is playing football, then he picked up the ball and ran. Years later, a rugby league was formed in the UK.
Both Rugby Union and Rugby League are played and watched for in Europe. Throughout the UK, Rugby Union is more popular than Rugby League. Rugby League is more popular in northern countries of Lancashire and Yorkshire in England.
As early as 688 BC., boxing was accepted as an Olympic sport by the ancient Greeks. Modern-day boxing has its origins in the 18th century, gaining popularity first in Great Britain. In boxing, players attack and defend themselves using their fists.
There is a set of rules for boxing that should be strictly observed. Boxers usually wear padded gloves. Boxers are matched in weight and ability. A boxer fights intending to land hard punches to the opponent and try to also put defense against the punches of the opponent.
The winner of the boxing games goes to the boxer who gets higher points tallied in various ways or by making the opponent incapable of fighting. Boxing duration ranges from 3 to 12 rounds, lasting 3 minutes each game.
Ice hockey is included in the most played games among Europeans, and that’s on both the amateur and professional levels. This sport is played on an ice rink. A game is between two teams, usually made up of 6 players each. The players wear skates and hold hockey sticks.
The objective of the game is to shoot a vulcanized rubber puck past a goal line and into a net guarded by a goaltender. Ice hockey is played the most in the northeast region of Europe. That’s because it’s a lot colder up there, so players get fresh ice to skate on.
The game is not as popular in the southern parts of Europe, where the weather is warm for a large part of the year. Moreover, nations in Scandinavia have more disposable income so that they can afford this expensive sport.
You might be surprised about this one. Many people think cricket is something played in India and Pakistan but is very popular in the UK. In fact, cricket is the most famous and most favored summer sport in the UK. Its popularity has spread through other parts of Europe.
Some of the most well-known cricket teams are the England and Ireland cricket teams. Evidence reported at a 1598 court case states that the earliest cricket played in England, specifically in Guildford, Surrey, is around 1550. After major developments, cricket became the national sport of England in the 18th century.
Cricket has become prominent, which attracted huge crowds to watch the matches. You have two competing teams with 11 players each. Players use a flat bat and ball and play inside an oval field with a rectangular area at the center, called the pitch.
Basketball is one of the most favorite sports in Europe. The game is generally popular in southern and eastern parts of Europe. Eurobasket, also known as European Basketball Championship, is a famous international competition.
This game has risen in popularity over the past two decades, and now Europeans spend a good amount of their sports time playing and watching basketball games.
Basketball is a team sport played between two teams composed of 5 players each. The game takes place on a rectangular court. To earn scores, each team must toss the ball through the opponent’s goal called a basket, an elevated horizontal hoop, and net.
Football is the most common sport in Europe. The history of football started way back in the third century BC in Ancient Greece and Rome. The game has evolved throughout the years and is played by millions of people.
Modern football stems from chaotic games played in the United Kingdom in which whole villages fought around terrain crossing streets, and fields. If there were rules at that time, they are unclear and less strict. It was only in 1863 when the rules of football were established.
The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League, initially known as the European Champion Clubs’ Cup or the European Cup, is an annual competition for Europe’s top football clubs. Among European people, football is the most famous sport.
Football is by far the most played and watched sport throughout Europe. However, other sports are on the rise, like basketball, and then there are other sports that have stood the test of time, like cricket.
We know that many of the world’s favorite sports originate in old-world Europe; let’s know what the new Europe might bring us.