Asia is the largest and most populous continent in the world, made up of 48 countries with a rich mixture of languages, religions, political systems, and world outlooks. However, if there is one thing that unites this diverse network of cultures it is their love of sport, which, as elsewhere in the world, offers an outlet and a focus for passion and commitment.
Here are the 5 most watched sports in Asia.
Football, like in much of the rest of the world, is the most popular sport in the continent and is followed with almost religious fervour from Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the west to China and Japan in the east. People follow both local leagues and European competitions, with English Premier League teams having local fan clubs in many countries throughout the continent.
International tournaments like the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Champions League attract armchair fans in the hundreds of millions.
It is also the most played sport because it requires minimal equipment, making it accessible to everyone, irrespective of social class or level of income.
Cricket is the most popular sport throughout the Indian sub-continent, with an almost fanatical following in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, whilst Bangladesh and Afghanistan now both also have test status. Matches between India and Pakistan, whilst few and far in between because of political tensions, attract audiences of over a billion, whilst the IPL is the most successful cricket franchise tournament in the world, both in terms of the money it generates and the international stars it attracts.
Badminton is the second most popular sport in the world in terms of people playing it, and it has a substantial following in Asia, which dominates the professional game, with players from China, South Korea, Indonesia, India, and Malaysia making up most of the world rankings.
The 1992 Olympic tournament, the first broadcast throughout the continent, attracted a TV audience of over 1.1 billion, most of those viewers being Asians. Top badminton players, minor celebrities in other countries, are superstars in Asia.
This sport is extremely popular in East Asia, especially in China and the two Koreas, as well as Vietnam. The sport is dominated by China – they have taken all the gold medals on offer at the last three Olympics, and, since 1971, all but two female World Championship medals have been won by the Chinese players. And, like people anywhere, the Chinese people will tune in their droves to watch their athletes compete successfully in international competitions – that is a lot of eyeballs.
Volleyball is very popular in China and Japan, with both having produced Olympic and World Championship medal winning teams. There is also growing interest in Iran, whilst South Korea are up and coming in the sport as well.