Top 10 Most Popular Sports in the World in 2021

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From our early childhood years where we take sports very seriously and dream about becoming a sportsperson to the later years in life where we consider it as a hobby, a fitness ritual, and sometimes even a profession, sports play an important role in our lives. Today in every part of the world people follow some sport or the other passionately. People have an emotional attachment with their favorite sports stars and sports teams and often take their sporting heroes as their role models. People in different regions of the world have different favorite sports. Here’s a list of the top ten most popular sports based on global fans.

1. Football/Soccer

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Image: Wikipedia

Commonly known as football and sometimes soccer, the game is played by approximately 250 million players spread over 200 countries, making it the world’s most popular sport. And now in 2021, it also holds its place among the richest sports in the world. Around 3.5 billion follow football. That is almost half the world’s population. The sport is enjoyed by fans in almost all regions of the world.

The number of people who follow the sport regularly and watch its global as well as regional competitions is unmatched. The regions where it is most popular are Europe, Africa, Asia, and America, which again covers almost half of the world.

2. Cricket

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Image: Britannica
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Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world with 2.5-3 billion fans. However, the fan base of Cricket is limited to some countries. It is not a major sport in the US, most of Europe, and is still up and coming in most of Africa. On the upside, some of the biggest countries in the world play this sport. 

Cricket is the most-watched sport in the second most populated country in the world, India, and also its subcontinent including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. West Indies, South Africa, and Australia also watch cricket the most. About 2.2 Billion people from around the world watched the Cricket World Cup 2015 on their televisions.

3. Baseketball

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One of the most paying sports, Basketball is the third most-watched and played sport in the world. The number of basketball fans ranges from 2 to 2.5 billion. Most of the fans are concentrated in the US, Canada, China, Japan, and the Philippines.

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The sport enjoys great TV viewership in the US because of the NBA, the National Basketball league of the US. It is the most popular league in the world and it is watched and followed by millions of fans in the US as well as outside the US, so much so that in 2016, the NBA sold the TV rights deal for a staggering $24 billion for 9 years. 

4. Hockey (Field + Ice)

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Hockey is a family of sports, field hockey is the National game of Pakistan as well as India while ice hockey is popular especially in Canada, and the USA, Latvia. The number of combined fans for both forms of hockey reaches around 2.2 billion.

Field hockey is a widely watched sport in the countries of Pakistan, India, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Malaysia, and the Netherlands. Ice hockey has an amazing fan following in Canada and the USA. Both forms of hockey are major sporting events in the Olympics.

5. Tennis

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Image: Long Island Tennis Magazine
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Tennis is the fifth most popular sport in the world enjoying a fanbase of around 1 million people. It has a pretty good fan base all over the world, although it is more popular in developed countries than in developing countries. 

Modern tennis superstars like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic are known widely around the world and have hundreds of millions of fans throughout the world. While the legends such as Pete Sampras and Boris Becker still get a mention from our elders. The major competitions of Tennis, the four grand slams, are watched by more than 400 million people around the world.

6. Volleyball

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Volleyball is a team sport and has been a part of the official program of the Summer Olympic Games since 1964. It enjoys a fanbase of around 900 million people and is the sixth most popular sport in the world. 

The sport has a vast following around the world including countries such as Brazil, Russia, Japan, China, the USA, Italy, Cuba, and Poland.

7. Table Tennis

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Much like volleyball, fans of table tennis are scattered around the world. With millions of hobbyists, amateur players, and professional players table tennis has a strong fan base of around 900 million people and is the seventh most popular sport in the world. 

The sport is popular in almost all the countries of the world, but only as a hobby and as an amateur sport. There are only a few countries where the sport is popular at the professional level such as China, Sweden, Japan, and South Korea.

8. Baseball

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There are around 500 million fans of baseball spread across the US, Japan, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic, making it the eighth most popular sport in the world. The sport is widely watched in these countries but the viewership is not that good in other countries of the world.

A way forward for the sport to increase fans would be to include women. Baseball is one of the most male-dominated sports with female participation rising slowly and steadily.

9. American Football

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Image: Talk Media Africa

American football (known as football in the United States and gridiron in some other countries), as the name should suggest, finds most of its popularity in the US. It is the ninth most popular sport with around 390-410 million fans.

American Football is one of the most-watched sports in the US but does not enjoy good levels of viewership elsewhere. The NFL (National Football League) in the US is one of the most popular sports leagues in the world. NFL TV rights are sold in billions of dollars per year.

10. Golf

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With around 300 million fans, Golf concludes our top ten list of most popular sports in the world. It is more popular among the elderly as compared to young people with most of these fans concentrated in the US, Canada, and Europe. The sport enjoys high levels of viewership among male adults belonging to the upper class.

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