Many topics covered in these units bound certain groups together. Sharing the same ethnicity, nationality, or religion, for example, intertwines peoples’ lives in a way that is unique in this world. Other topics, such as education, draw like-minded individuals to each other, and those individuals create a community of support and trust even though they may not share some of the aspects mentioned above. As we’ll learn in a moment, sports have the power to create “armies” of people loyal to one team, and those groups show their passion in various ways. Usually this passion manifests itself in positive ways, but it can also create chaos, violence, and damage cities.
Sports are such a powerful force that countries have adopted a national sport (formally, but sometimes informally). According to one source, cricket is the national sport in India (and many other countries); sumo wrestling is the national sport of Japan (although baseball is more popular); archery is the national sport of Mongolia; volleyball is the national sport of Sri Lanka; and baseball is the national sport of the United States (although many will argue that it’s American football) (Wood, 2015). These are just some examples of the wide variety of sports that are played and adored across the world.
What is your home country’s national sport (formal and/or informal)? Why did it become so popular? Have you tried to play the sport before? What sports have you played, and want to try? After you write your answers below, explain your choices to a partner.
My home country: __________________________________________
Most Popular Sports (besides the National Sport)
Sports I’ve played
Sports I want to try
It is difficult to cover every country and every national and popular sport, so let’s just look at one country in more detail. Here is list of popular sports in Japan, from 2005, 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2017:
Most countries have their own traditional sports, as well as sports that were imported from other countries. This importing of sports can often be attributed to colonialism, or political and military occupation. For example, traditional sports in Japan include kyudo (Japanese archery, which also includes “mounted archery”—archery performed while riding a horse), kendo, aikido, and judo. However, from the chart above, it is interesting to note that baseball—a sport imported from America—is the most popular sport in Japan even though it is not considered the national sport. Interestingly enough, the national sport, sumo wrestling, has been steadily climbing in popularity, while soccer (“Association football”) has been slowly declining.
A sport’s popularity depends on many factors, including national and international championships, high-profile games, such as the Olympics, and the rise of sports icons. If you’re not sure about how popular a sport is, consider this: Who is the most popular sports figure in your home country? The most popular sports figure usually tells a lot about the importance of a certain sport in a country.
Boredom can strike at any moment. One minute you’re working hard on a class assignment, and the next minute you’re fighting a strong urge to get up and go do something you love to do. Those activities that are done for enjoyment, amusement, and fun are categorized as recreation. Recreation can include physical activities that are not generally organized sports, such as hiking, bicycling, surfing, and working out. They can also include games, such as board games or puzzles like the Rubik’s Cube. Again, if you’re doing something to win a medal or recognition, that activity ceases to be recreation and turns into either a job (e.g., professional ice skater) or a professional pursuit (e.g., sponsored skateboarder). Recreation, like sports, is extremely important for cultural groups, and usually tells a lot about what is considered fun in a given area.
What types of recreation are most popular in your home country? Which do you enjoy doing? How long have you done them? Have you thought about turning your recreational activity into a profession? Write your thoughts below and then share them with a partner or small group.
Various Countries in Africa
There are 54 countries in Africa, and each country is filled with a long history, fascinating beliefs and traditions, and, of course, a variety of sports and recreation! It is impossible to discuss all 54 countries in this textbook, so only a few will be covered. However, you are encouraged to research some countries to discover what traditional and modern sports are played, and what recreational activities are done.
There is one sport that has spread across almost every country in Africa—football (known as soccer in every country except the United States). It should come as no surprise that many African countries struggle with resources, so playing a sport that requires a minimal amount of equipment makes perfect sense. Many African countries, such as Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia, have been recognized as having strong football clubs, and because of these teams, football has grown in popularity.
Although needing a bit more equipment than football, rugby has also become quite popular in African countries, and South Africa, Kenya, and Ghana has helped increase the number of professional teams in Africa. Other popular sports including marathon running and other athletics, cricket, and basketball.
Traditional sports are rich in tradition and history. The most ancient traditional sport seems to be wrestling, which is practiced in many villages across Africa.
Wrestling has been a part of African villages for a long, long time, but there are other sports that have ancient roots in Africa, as well.
Another sport called Ta kurt om el mahag is considered by some to be the sport that inspired baseball in the West. A much more dangerous (and sometimes deadly) sport is called “stick fighting,” which has two fighters basically beating each other with sticks. This sport is so bloody and violent that South Africa has banned it; however, proponents argue that the sport “encourages cultural expression and requires skill, discipline and a firm physique” (Hungryng, 2017). Other sports include bavika (like a Western rodeo show with dangerous bulls), and donkey racing.
This section is not a critique of traditional and modern sports in African countries, but rather an attempt to show how diverse sports can be in one continent.
Trying to summarize recreation in a continent is, again, an impossible task. However, one interesting recreational game that will give an amazing insight into the history of Africa is called mancala. If possible, watch the video titled “How to play mancala” (URL” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-A-djjimCcM), or search that phrase online for a quick demonstration.
Mancala holds the distinction of being one of the oldest, if not the oldest, board game in human history, and involves basic pieces—stones or seeds and a wooden board. The rules are a bit complicated to explain in this unit, but the goal is basically to capture all of your opponent’s stones using a variety of moves.
It is amazing to look at a game like mancala and imagine the different ways in which humans have found enjoyment. Mancala and many other games and activities have been a source of recreational enjoyment for centuries, and we should learn more about other culture’s sports and recreational activities in order to better understand each other. Who would have thought that a simple game could be so meaningful to our lives!