What are Europeans’ favorite sports?

According to a survey conducted by Eurobarometer, 38% of Europeans exercise weekly, and 6% of respondents say they do so five times a week or more. While some sports are essential, others are specific to certain European countries. All of Europe invites you to see its preferences in sports.

According to research, 45% of Europeans do not engage in any physical activity
According to research, 45% of Europeans do not engage in any physical activity – Credit: FatCamera / iStock

Europe, crazy about football

As in many parts of the world, football is the most important sport in Europe. In fact, its current form and rules originated on the continent, in the United Kingdom, in the 1860s, and the sport subsequently spread to continental Europe, to Belgium, the Netherlands and even Denmark, mainly thanks to the universities. Since the 1930s, with the organization of the first World Cup, football has become a very popular international sport.

Today, the sport continues to grow in importance, both economically and socially. Aided by the liberalization of player transfers or the massive increase in television rights, football has now gained significant financial weight. So much so that some famous international clubs such as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United value It amounts to more than 5.5 billion euros.

But football’s continued success is also due to the fact that football is not the preserve of the elite, or merely an audio-visual spectacle. In fact, it is also the most played sport among Europeans. For example Germany Lists Nearly 25,000 clubs and 7.4 million players while we account 13 thousand clubs for 2.2 million members of the French Football Federation. With rare exceptions, football is the main sport in the 27 EU member states.

At the professional level, it stands to reason that the most populous European countries are the ones most likely to win tournaments. In fact, only Germany, Spain, France and Italy have managed to win the Men’s World Cup. This does not prevent other teams from regularly achieving excellent results, such as Portugal, European champion in 2016, the Netherlands, which reached the World Cup finals three times, Belgium, Croatia, or even Greece, European champion in 2004, defying all expectations.

Euro 2024 will be held in 10 cities in Germany. The first championship for a unified Germany, as the last European Championship was organized in 1988, before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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Are Europeans really athletic?

If 38% of Europeans exercise every week, a European barometer The 2022 survey also found that 45% of Europeans have never exercised (1% lower than the previous survey in 2018). For this reason, sports promotion policies are being implemented at national and European levels to raise the level of sports. Awareness of this problem, European Sports Week It is organized every year starting from September 23.

Europeans are fans of team sports

Besides football, other team sports are very popular in Europe, most of which have gained fame and financial weight.

This is the case with rugby, a sport derived from football and played by more and more Europeans. If Britain, France and Italy are the most famous as participants in the Six Nations, other countries have seen their performance improve over the years. Among these countries can be mentioned Romania and, to a lesser extent, Sweden (winner of the 2023-2024 edition). From the European Rugby Cup) Germany, Spain and Portugal.

Handball has also become an important sport in many countries in Europe. Thanks to its excellent results at international level, it has become one of the most important sports in France, Spain and even Germany. Some “smaller” countries have also made the sport their own, such as Croatia, Denmark (2023 men’s world champion) and Sweden, to the point where it rivals soccer in popularity.

While the United States is still far ahead in basketball, some European countries are now reaching great heights. This is the case again for Spain and France, the two most sportingly diverse countries in Europe. But there are also less common countries that are at the forefront of the sporting world, such as Greece, Lithuania and Slovenia.

Water polo is a lesser-known sport, but it is very popular and practiced in many European countries, including Hungary, where it is considered the national sport. There are also many Italians, Maltese, Croats and Greeks who practice this sport.

Tennis is the most important individual sport in Europe

Europeans also often practice individual sports, such as athletics or swimming, which are easily accessible and can be cheap or even free.

Tennis is often played on the continent and receives significant media attention. Two of the most prestigious tournaments (Grand Slam) are held in Europe: Roland Garros in Paris and Wimbledon in London. Currently, European countries have some of the highest-ranked players in the world: Spain (Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz), Germany (Alexander Zverev), Bulgaria (Grigor Dimitrov), Italy (Jannik Sinner) or even Poland (Hubert Hurkacz) and Denmark. (Holger Rohn). Other countries, such as Sweden (Björn Borg, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg), also experienced boom periods, but are now struggling to be among the top tennis nations. In the women’s rankings, the European Union has not been left out, with Iga Cvetic (Poland), Maria Sakkari (Greece), Marketa Vondrousova (Czech Republic) and Gina Ostapenko (Latvia) currently in the world top ten. In the past, Steffi Graf of Germany, Arancha Sanchez Vicario of Spain and Amelie Mauresmo of France have also excelled on the field.

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Golf is often portrayed as a “gentleman’s” sport, or at least reserved for the upper classes, more so than tennis, and many Europeans also play golf. This is particularly the case in Germany, Sweden and Spain.

Preferences are influenced by geography and climate

Naturally, Europeans’ sporting preferences are influenced by their environment. This is especially true when it comes to snow or ice sports.

In alpine skiing, both at professional and amateur level, it is the Austrians, Germans, French and Italians who (along with the Swiss) achieve the best results in Europe and practice the most. The same applies to cross-country skiing, whose disciplines are very popular in Sweden and Finland. In this regard, many Estonians also practice this sport, especially as part of cross-country skiing marathons, which often attract several thousand people.

Ice hockey, a veritable institution in many northern and eastern European countries, is no exception. The best European countries are Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic and Slovakia. The national teams of these countries often compete at a global level with Russia, Canada and the United States, while the sport is also often played by youth and amateurs in general.

Europeans and the road

Depending on their nationality, Europeans are also passionate about and practice ‘road sports’. The most popular is cycling, which is enjoyed throughout the continent. France, Italy and Spain host the three main Tours, but if there are many riders from these countries, there are also a large number of Belgians, Dutch, Danes and even Luxembourgians.

In addition, auto racing, which is rarely practiced by individuals for financial and technical reasons, is also very popular in many European countries. This is particularly the case in Italy and Germany, but also in Belgium and Finland for Formula 1. Spectators in France have also seen a renewed interest in this discipline, especially since Pierre Gasly’s victory at the Monza Grand Prix (Italy) in September 2020. .

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National peculiarities

Finally, note that the European motto “United in Diversity” also applies to sports. In fact, many countries are known for playing sports whose fame is not widely exported beyond their borders.

Perhaps the most emblematic case is that of Ireland, where Gaelic sports are king. In particular, Gaelic football, which is played by teams of fifteen players and which, in short, lies at the crossroads between traditional football and rugby. Ejaculation is also necessary in the country. It is also played with 15 players, but this time we use rackets to move the ball forward and score goals. The female version of swing is camogie. The great popularity of these sports is evidenced by the fact that they have the largest stadium in the country (Croke Park, 82,000 seats) in Dublin.

Scandinavia is also not left out when it comes to unique sports. The Swedes especially appreciate bandy, one of the ancestors of ice hockey of Russian origin. The ice rink here is replaced by a frozen football field, increasing the number of players per team from 6 to 11. The sport has also left its mark in Estonia.

Another form of hockey: floorball, or uni hockey, which is played indoors. Here too, the Swedes are considered among the most important amateurs, along with the Finns, Germans and Slovaks. Hockey is a Dutch specialty, just like skating.

Finally, among other national characteristics, we can also mention Basque pelota, a discipline popular on both sides of the Pyrenees, or even petanque, whose popularity continues unabated in France and also in Malta (under the name of bocce) on a large scale.

Amber Webster

 "Freelance zombie fanatic. Devoted web advocate. Analyst. Writer. Coffee fanatic. Travelaholic. Proud food aficionado."

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