What are "objective" criteria or rules (if exists) to define a sport as "national sport" for each Country?

e.g. National sport for Italy is (probably) soccer, but I do not know if there are objective criteria to define it. In fact I think there is no official list for National sport for most nation in the world

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    A simple Google search for "national sport" turns up the result: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_sport
    – Don Larynx
    Dec 22, 2013 at 18:47
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    The link @DonLarynx provides contains information on how a national sport may be viewed in its respective country...either de facto (in practice) or de jure (in law). De facto is understood within a nation whereas de jure is actually documented in a nation's law (see Canada for example).
    – user527
    Dec 22, 2013 at 21:42
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    However, to define the intricacies of how each country's national sport originated is too broad, but asking how a country's national sport may be recognized is a reasonably-scoped question.
    – user527
    Dec 22, 2013 at 21:46
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    not only is it too broad but also highly subjective. Football (soccer) is generally considered the largest sport in many Mediterranean countries, however it's likely someone who for instance has played basketball might disagree whether or not football is the one and only national sport in the country.
    – posdef
    Dec 23, 2013 at 11:36
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    @posdef I agree with you, but the way you present your case leans toward being opinionated rather than subjective. Otherwise, the same could be said about the US in regards to American football (because of its popularity), even though it is widely understood that baseball is the de facto national sport.
    – user527
    Dec 24, 2013 at 17:51

2 Answers 2


The national sport of a country tends to be one that is linked with the culture of that country. Most European countries have the national sport of football (soccer) and America's national sport is baseball. This is not the most played sport in that country, for example the most played sport in England is football, but cricket is actually our national sport.

A Country can have more than one, for example USA have baseball and American football.

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    Have you a reference to support the claim that cricket is the national sport of England? Much as I would prefer that to be the case, I was under the impression that it was actually association football.
    – Spinner
    Dec 30, 2013 at 12:33
  • @Spinner - I knew that England's national sport is Cricket. Now found a reference from Wikipedia
    – Himanshu
    Jan 7, 2014 at 10:47
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    Doesn't seem to have any real references there but I'd imagine it is laid in law somewhere. I know in Ireland our national games predate Christianity and at one time players were not allowed to play football or rugby if they played GAA.
    – RoB
    Jan 7, 2014 at 12:16

Some countries have official, legal national sports. Others simply have unofficial sports that people say are the national sport. For both groups, I would say the criteria are a combination of these factors:

  • The sport should have been invented in the country. Example: lacrosse in Canada.
  • The sport should be extremely popular. Example: kabaddi in Bangladesh.
  • If it's not popular, the sport should be "important" in some cultural way and therefore worthy of conservation, reenactment, and reverence. Example: Charreada in Mexico.
  • When possible, the sport should convey something meaningful about the country, ideally in a kick-ass way. Example: Varzesh-e Bastani in Iran.

For unofficial sports, current popularity would be a bigger factor than for official sports.

I wrote more about this topic here.

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