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10 National Sports To See & Play Around The Globe

Published 2 years ago on December 12, 2017
By Vincent

Sport can be the great unifier, something that transcends language barriers and brings people together in competition and celebration and whilst there are some sports that are universally recognized, some don't quite make it very far outside of their nation of inception, so here we look at a few national sports that are definitely worth checking out if you're in their region.

1. Sumo - Japan

An ancient form of wrestling where two giant competitors try to force one another out of the ring or to touch the ground with anything other than the soles of their feet. The sport originated in Japan, the only country where it is practiced professionally but it has had several foreign grand champions. 

J. Henning Buchholz/

Many elements of the sport are ancient and ritualistic, and wrestlers live in "stables" and have their lifestyles and dress dictated by these traditions. Massively popular in Japan, matches consist solely of a single round and often last only a few seconds, as usually one wrestler is quickly ousted from the circle or thrown to the ground. However, they can occasionally last for several minutes. Each match is preceded by an elaborate ceremonial ritual. Traditionally, sumo wrestlers are renowned for their great girth and body mass, which is often a winning factor in sumo.

2. Capoeira - Brazil

An Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics, and music, Capoeira was perhaps most accurately summed up by cult animated TV show Bob's Burgers when it was described as "sexy dance fighting".


Its origins are controversial and are thought to have come from escaped slaves from sugar cane plantations who formed small groups and defended themselves from those trying to recapture them thus capoeira is a fast and versatile martial art which is historically focused on fighting when outnumbered. 

The style emphasizes using the lower body to kick, sweep and take down and the upper body to assist those movements and occasionally attack as well.

3. Kabbadi - Bangladesh

A very popular sport in South-East Asia, Kabaddi is played between two teams of seven players; the object of the game is for a single player on offence—referred to as a "raider"—to run into the opposing team's half of a court, tag out as many of their defenders as possible, and return to their own half of the court—all without being tackled by the defenders. 

Points are scored for each player tagged by the raider, while the opposing team earns a point for stopping the raider. Players are taken out of the game if they are tagged or tackled but can be "revived" for each point scored by their team from a tag or tackle.


Different versions of the game will see tagging being undertaken by snatching handkerchiefs from players waists and sometimes teams must repeat the word 'Kabaddi' over and over in a single breath.

Kabaddi originated in the ancient Tamil region, which is predominantly present day Tamil Nadu and parts of other South Indian states but is the national sport of Bangladesh and Nepal and is known by its regional names in different parts of the subcontinent.

4. Pato - Argentina

A game played on horseback, Pato is a sort of hybrid between basketball and polo. Two four-member teams riding on horses fight for possession of a ball which has six conveniently-sized handles, and score by throwing the ball through a vertically positioned ring (as opposed to the horizontal rim used in basketball) and whoever holds the ball must have it outstretched in their right arm so as to offer it to be taken from them at all times.


Called Pato because that is the Spanish word for duck and originally a duck was used in place of a ball. The games often became extremely violent seeing players trampled or even stabbed, and it was outlawed for many years until a codified set of rules was published and adhered to. It gained legitimacy and was made the national sport of Argentina in 1953.

5. Sepak Takraw - Malaysia

Known as sepak takraw in Malay, sipa in Filipino, cau may in Vietnamese, and ka-taw in Lao, it has similarities with volleyball in that a ball is served from one side of the court to another, after which players can move freely.


However, hands cannot be used, and the rattan ball can be returned over the net using any part of the body except for the arm from the shoulder to the point of the finger.

6. Tejo - Colombia

The national sport of Colombia, Tejo also has professional teams in neighboring countries including Venezuela, Ecua, or and Panama. The game consists of throwing a metal puck/disc, weighing across an alley at a distance of approximately twenty meters, to a one-meter by one-meter board covered with clay and set at a forty-five-degree angle with different scoring regions around this board.

camilo sanchez/

Often involving small amounts of gunpowder that produce a 'pop' when the 'tejo' (the disc itself) lands in these regions although in more recent years these have been replaced by electronic sensors. In Colombia, it is very common to find professional Tejo teams around the major cities and smaller towns

7. Hurling - Republic of Ireland

Hurling is an outdoor team game of ancient Gaelic and Irish origin and is the fastest field sport in the world that looks like a part-hockey, part-football, part-rugby crossover despite pre-dating all of these having been played for some 3,000 years.


The objective of the game is for players to use a wooden stick called a hurley to hit a small ball called a sliotar between the opponents' goalposts either over the crossbar for one point or under the crossbar into a net guarded by a goalkeeper for one goal, which is equivalent to three points. This can be incredibly violent and dangerous especially when the sliotar is flicked up and smashed at high speeds at head height. 

8. Buzkashi - Afghanistan

A sort of morbid version of polo where two horse riding teams attempt to place a goat or calf carcass in a goal, it is popular in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan with the rules being that almost anything goes except for deliberate attempts to whip or force other riders off of their mounts.


Dating right back to the 10th central, this game, traditionally,  could last for several days, but in its more regulated tournament version, it has a limited match time.

9. Australian Football - Australia

Aussie rules football is not quite soccer, not quite football, not quite rugby, usually played on a cricket pitch. It's a contact sport played between two teams of eighteen players on an oval-shaped field, often a modified cricket ground. Points are scored by kicking the oval-shaped ball between the opponent's goalposts (worth six points) or behind posts (worth one point). The team with the highest score at the end of the match wins unless a draw is declared.

Neale Cousland/

Players can position themselves anywhere on the pitch and possession of the ball is in contention at all times making for a hectic, fast-paced and exciting game and although dangerous physical contact is discouraged through free-kicks, players can tackle using their hands or use their whole body to obstruct opponents which can lead to quite drastic incidents and injuries.

10. Handball - Denmark

A bit like football (soccer) but with the hands instead of feet, handball is a team sport in which two teams of seven players each (six outfield players and a goalkeeper) pass a ball using their hands with the aim of throwing it into the goal of the other team. A standard match consists of two periods of 30 minutes, and the team that scores more goals wins.

Gabriel Petrescu/

The team handball game of today was codified at the end of the 19th century in northern Europe—primarily in Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden and these countries have continued to dominate the game despite it enjoying popularity throughout Europe, in the Far East, North Africa and parts of South America. The first set of rules was published in Denmark, and it has become the country's national sport.

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