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  • Writer's pictureEugenia Károlyi

Top 10 List of the World's Most Popular Sports

Football (Soccer) is clearly the most popular sport in the world in terms of fans. The FIFA World Cup, held every four years, has a huge TV audience. Over 30 billion people watched the 2006 World Cup in Germany*

*Accumulated audience: if people watched more than one game, which most people did, they were counted each time.

1) FOOTBALL (Soccer): A team sport that is popular in almost every country in the world. The huge fan following is perhaps due to the fact that at an amateur level, it requires very little equipment and effort to learn the basics. It starts with as simple as driving the ball into the opponent's goal post and preventing the opponent from doing so. Kids from all walks of life start playing soccer at an early age and go on to become ardent followers of the game. Soccer is also the highest paying team sport at professional level. The prize money for the winning team at the 2010 Soccer World Cup was US $30 million.

2) BASKETBALL: An action packed game combining the display of skills, strategy and athleticism in one of the shortest duration as compared to contemporary sports. Basketball gives you one of the most rigorous indoor exercises. The game originated in Canada and has a huge fan following in North America. However, it has gained worldwide popularity rather quickly - the Federation Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) ranking list has 82 countries with non-zero points after the 2012 London Olympics. Top Basketball players in the world are rewarded handsomely. In 2004, Michael Jordan made 35 million dollars.

3) CRICKET: English version of American softball? Close but not quite. The third most popular sport in the world is also a team sport. Cricket's number three spot in terms of number of fans is thanks largely due to its popularity in the Indian sub-continent. It is popular in Asia, Australia, Middle-East, England and few selected countries, but is slowly expanding its reach to other countries. Cricket is a rather interesting sport with many formats - from test matches which last for as long as 5 days to the more recent 20-20 format which has a duration of about 3 hours. The original format of the game (5 days) and the somewhat involved rules and skills required meant that Cricket was popular among a few selected countries to begin with. However, the introduction of the 20-20 format has resulted in many more countries participating in the sport at an international level.

4) TENNIS: One of the top 5 most popular sports in the world, but its the most popular individual sport. Tennis can be played between two single players or two teams of a pair of players each (doubles). It is a sport which is equally popular among men and women. Lawn tennis is a very high paying individual sport - individual players have made more than $40 million in a year alone. Tennis is a fascinating game as well as exercise. The fact that there is no fixed time limit in the game means a player has to work hard on his/her stamina - matches between professionals often turn out to be a test of endurance. The only limiting factor in the popularity of the game is the availability of affordable tennis courts for common public.

5) BASEBALL: The national pastime of the United States and my home country, Venezuela, is one of the top 10 most popular sports in the world. Baseball is also a very high paying sport at the professional level - the total prize money for the World Baseball Classic (WBC) tournament standing at $14 million, and individual players in the United States earning as much as $33 million per year.

6) TABLE TENNIS: Another individual/pair sport which makes it to the top 10 most popular sports list. Informally, table-tennis is also known as ping-pong. One of the advantages of the game is that it requires relatively lesser space, so many clubs, schools and recreational centers have a table-tennis court. Though it appears that there is relatively less running in the sport, a serious game of table-tennis can be a very good exercise due to the swift movements required.

7) GOLF: The most popular solo sport. It is a game where focus is completely on individual brilliance - ones performance in Golf is not influenced by the opponent's. A golf course can offer unique scenic beauty and natural environment unmatched by any other sport. As golf courses are often rare even in big cities, many people first try their hands on an alternative form - mini golf. Though the sport is played regularly only by the wealthier class, people love to watch golf. Golf has the record for an individual sports-person earning the highest amount of money ever. As of 2010, Tiger Woods had earned close to $900 million in his career. He earned around $90 million in 2010 from winnings and endorsements alone.

8) VOLLEYBALL: Also a team sport which is popular across the globe, partly due to its different variants (it can be played indoors as well as outdoors). Volleyball is popular among men as well women. Officially, the sport is played between teams of six players each. Volleyball was invented in 1895, in Massachusetts by Dr. William Morgan and beach volleyball caught up a couple of decades later.

9) BADMINTON: A sport played using racquets to hit a shuttlecock across a net. Although it may be played with larger teams, the most common forms of the game are "singles" (with one player per side) and "doubles" (with two players per side). The game developed in British India from the earlier game of battledore and shuttlecock. European play came to be dominated by Denmark but the game has become very popular in Asia, with recent competition dominated by China. Since 1992, badminton has been a Summer Olympic sport requiring aerobic stamina, agility, strength, speed, and precision.

10) RUGBY: A type of football developed at Rugby School in Rugby, Warwickshire, one of many versions of football played at English public schools in the 19th century. The two main types of rugby are rugby league and rugby union. Although rugby league initially used rugby union rules, they are now wholly separate sports.

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