Sports only a handful, or less, countries are truly passionate about

Oh, I’m aware it’s a northern thing sense my it depends on how you define a hand full comment. It’s probably less then a dozen countries worldwide so obviously not obscure like some of the sports were talking about but still no where near major on an international level.

Calcio Storico in Italy - people beat the crap out of each other in medieval/gladiator costumes in a disorganized fashion, and occasionally remember they’re supposed to move a ball forward. Great stuff.

Yes, it’s much closer to rugby than to American or Canadian football.

This may only count as part of another broader sport, but ekiden (long-distance road running relay) is a wildly popular spectator sport in Japan and basically nowhere else. The biggest one is the two-day Hakone Ekiden on January 2-3, which gets tens of millions of TV viewers and has its own museum.

Australian rules is actually closest to the previously mentioned Gaelic Football. But you’re right that it’s closer to rugby than to American football.

I think hockey is too popular for this question. Once you consider all of the European countries that have some serious skill and the World Juniors.

I would put field hockey into consideration though.


The Subcontinent. Most of Europe, including UK, Ireland, Germany, Dutch, Spain; Australia, New Zealand, Argentina… I would say its probably more popular than Ice Hockey.

I would put forth some Gaelic Sports too.

As well as Tent Pegging, which is only really big in rural Punjab.

It’s not much of a spectator sport, but long distance running relays are becoming increasingly popular in the US -

Not sure how popular Cyclocross is outside of Flanders.

Shinty is the Scottish version of hurling, but I don’t think it’s as popular.

Caber toss - Scotland, though also in Highland games events worldwide.

Wife carrying - Finland and Estonia.

Korfball - Netherlands

Sepak takraw - SE Asia

I would say rugby league applies. Is cricket too popular?

You’re probably right when talking about popularity, but note: most of the top sumo are originally, despite their adopted Japanese names, of Hawaiian or Mongolian origin.

It’s really one of the weirdest football codes to watch. It’s the only one I know where you can use other players as a platform.

It looks like only Canada and Finland take ringette seriously (although I suspect it’s being cannibalized by women’s hockey nowadays).

Hockey is, however, may be the most popular sport in only one country; Canada. Even in Russia, the most popular sport is soccer. (I have seen arguments that hockey might be more popular in Finland or the Czech Republic, but sources argue over this.) So in that regard hockey can, or might, be said to be somewhat different from other well known sports; widely played, but in first place only on one country.

That cannot be said of baseball, which is clearly the most popular sport in at least three or four countries on two and maybe three continents (and arguably NOT in the country that created it.) Of course, precisely measuring a country’s most popular sport is itself a bit of a debate.

You don’t see much jai-alai except in Basque country and Miami.

American handball is famous in New York City, where an estimated 2,299 public handball courts occupy the five boroughs.

The Japanese been playing baseball since the 1880s and actually are the ones who spread baseball to Korea and Taiwan when those countries were Japanese colonies.

I just finished reading “The Ball” by John Fox, which has a few contenders for this thread.

Kirkwall Ba’: Only played in the town of Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands a few times a year. It’s in the tradition of old mass-football games of medieval times where the men of the upper and lower halves of the town scrum to force the ball through the town into the other half’s goal.

Eton Wall Game: In the style of rubgy, but shaped by the very narrow (5 meters wide) field along side a brick wall.

Ulama: The ancient ball game of the Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs is still played in a few villages in Western Mexico. Played with a large, heavy rubber ball that is bounced off the hip across a center line for the other team to attempt to return service.

Jeu de Paume (or Real/Royal Tennis): Only a handful of courts left in the world in France and England, plus America and Australia. An indoor court game played on a court with sloping walls, and lots of ledges and protrusions to bank balls off of.

Box Lacrosse: Field lacrosse is the popular form of the game that everyone knows. Box Lacrosse is played indoors, usually on a de-iced hockey rink. Huge in Canada (Canada has never lost an international game), and minor everywhere else except for the Northeastern U.S and the Native American tribes of upstate New York. The Iroquois Nation competes independently in international play.

Bandy: A form of ice hockey played outdoors on a soccer-sized field. It’s played with a ball, not a puck, and sticks curved more like field hockey sticks. Very limited by climate and has been cannibalized by ice hockey for decades. Really only played in Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Norway.

Vintage Baseball: The U.S. Archaic-rules baseball combined with historical re-enactment. Teams play games using rules from the 1860s or 1870’s while wearing old-timey uniforms and equipment (or lack thereof).

Japan also has Gateball, a kind of amped-up team croquet. Also, there is Kemari, a type of hackey-sack played by courtiers in Kyoto dating back well over a thousand years.

Sumo has been mentioned. If judo is considered a sport, how about other competitive martial arts like kendo and naginata-do?

Bocci is particularly popular in Malta with league play attracting quite a following. Maltese bocci is slightly different than its Italian cousin and, as far as I can tell, not widely played elsewhere.

Curling was my first guess, although it seems to be catching on elsewhere, if only for the novelty factor.

Jai-alai is big in some areas, although I understand it’s mostly because people bet on it. Marathons are a big deal in Japan for the same reason.

Six-player half-court girls’ basketball was a big thing in Iowa, until they wisened up and made it five-on-five, full court, and therefore much more interesting to watch.

Do you live in Massachusetts? I’ve never seen candlepins anywhere else?

Matkot”, or beach racquetball, is immensely popular in Israel and, apparently, in Brazil, where it’s known as “frescobol”. For those not familiar with, you stand on the surf line and use a wooden paddle to hit a squash ball back and forth and… well, that’s about it, really. It’s not so much a sport as it is a form of exercise and a way to show off your beach body.