As most Americans know, our taste in sports does not exactly match that of the world. American football is rarely seen outside of North America, while soccer, by far the world’s most popular sport, is only now starting to reach the same tier as sports like baseball, basketball, and hockey.
Perhaps not surprisingly, there are competitions that are extremely popular elsewhere in the world, but that the typical American likely hasn’t heard of them at all. 24/7 Wall St. identified 20 of the most interesting, unusual, and regionally popular of these.
Some of these games, such as netball, handball — not the handball you’re thinking of — or Aussie rules football, bear many similarities to popular American sports and often can trace their origins to these sports. Others on this list, such as Afghanistan’s national sport buzkashi, which is played with the headless carcass of a goat, are different altogether.
Some of these sports, while hugely popular where they are played, are niche in that they are only played in one place, and sometimes only during a single annual event. In these cases, such as the hyper-violent calcio fiorentino, the event is usually the cornerstone of a well-attended festival. Here are some of the most popular carnivals from around the world.
Not all of these sports are held in professional arenas — many are held outdoors, on sawdust, and in muddy terrain. Others are held in official sports venues and are often locally popular enough to sell out events to tens of thousands of fans. Many of these sports have some local popularity in the United States, but if you want to see high-level competition for any of these sports, you’ll likely need to buy a plane ticket. But these are the most popular countries on the CDC’s Do Not Travel list.
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