Africa has always been a sporting powerhouse. After all, the continent is home to the world’s greatest rugby team, several stars of the NBA and many Olympic gold medallists.
However, in recent years, certain sports in particular have boomed in popularity across the continent. Let’s take a look at four examples.
Yes, rugby has always been popular in Africa. The South African rugby team, the Springboks, have won the Rugby World Cup three times (and they’re currently looking to defend their crown). However, the popularity of the sport has spread to other African countries in recent years, such as Namibia and Kenya.
Today, there’s more rugby matches available to watch than ever before, and many of these feature African-born stars. The Rugby World Cup is currently underway in France (with South Africa and Namibia both representing Africa), but the United Rugby Championship immediately follows this, as does the Six Nations Championship, which is the first tournament of 2024. Then there’s The Rugby Championship to look forward to next summer. Now, rugby is a year-round support that’s gaining popularity at every turn.
Dikembe Mutombo and Hakeem Olajuwon first put African basketball on the map. Now, several African-born stars have followed in their footsteps and made it to the NBA. For example, Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Bismack Biyombo (Democratic Republic of Congo), Pascal Siakam (Cameroon) and Serge Ibaka (Democratic Republic of Congo) all have African roots.
The popularity of basketball in Africa is linked to these trailblazers as well as the annual NBA Africa Game and the Basketball Africa League (BAL). Now, African players from across the continent have the opportunity to showcase their skills and make it into the big leagues!
Cricket is popular in many of Africa’s former British colonies, including Zimbabwe, Kenya and South Africa. All of these teams now regularly compete on the international stage and at events such as the Cricket World Cup. Of the three, South Africa have been the most consistent and can count themselves unlucky to have not captured several major trophies.
Over the years, South Africa have produced some of the greatest players to ever play the game, including Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers and Allan Donald.
Football has been steadily gaining popularity in Africa ever since South Africa hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Today, it’s by far the most popular sport across the continent. Plus, although the great Pelé’s prediction that an African team would win the competition by 2000 didn’t come to pass, Morocco did make the semi-final stage in 2022.
On top of this, the continent can now genuinely lay claim to producing some of the best players in the world, including Liverpool star Mo Salah, his former teammate Sadio Mané and all-time greats Didier Drogba, Yaya Touré and Samuel Eto’o.
With African sides in these sports improving rapidly, it feels as though it’s only a matter of time until African teams regularly begin to win trophies on the international stage.