The Wide World of Sports

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

Baseball, football, and basketball may be our favorite games, but in other countries, different sports are just as popular. Here are a few of them.


It started in England, but now cricket is popular in many of its former colonies, especially in the West Indies and India. Like baseball, a batsman must hit a ball tossed by a pitcher (called a bowler)—except the ball must be hit on a bounce. There are usually four innings in a game. An inning ends when 10 batsmen make an out; then the fielding team gets to bat. Hundreds of runs are often scored, and games can take days to complete.

Foot Tennis

In Malaysia, this game is often played between two teams of two players each. A net is stretched at no particular height across the middle of a playing area, and a wicker ball about the size of a soccer ball is used. Players try to pass the ball back and forth over the net using only their feet, knees, and thighs. Each time the ball drops, the other team gets a point.


This rough game is played mainly in Ireland. Players use their hands, feet, and a curved wooden stick called a hurley to advance a ball. Points are scored when the ball is either swatted between goalposts or past the goalkeeper and under the crossbar.

Jai alai

First played in the Basque region of Spain, it has spread to Mexico, France, and Italy. In jai alai, an incredibly fast-moving game, players use a two-foot-long curved basket to catch and throw a small hard ball against a 40-foot-high wall. The court, called a fronton, has three sides. Players must catch the ball on the fly or on one bounce as it caroms off any of the three walls. The ball moves up to 188 miles per hour!


Kite-fighting is a highly competitive sport played in India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Thailand, and South America. Each player hopes to get his or her kite to fly highest. The players try to cut their opponents' kite strings with sharp objects imbedded in their kites. The kite that flies highest and longest wins.


This underwater hockey game was first played in South Africa in the 1960s. The players wear skin-diving equipment, such as masks, flippers, and snorkels, in a swimming pool. With miniature hockey sticks and an ice hockey puck, the players follow all the rules of ice hockey—on the floor of the pool.


This French game is similar to bocce, an Italian game. To start, a player throws a small wooden ball, called a jack, toward the opposite end of a long narrow rectangular-shaped court. Each team takes turns throwing a metal ball (boule) as close to the jack as possible. Points are awarded to each ball closer to the jack than the closest ball of an opponent. Strategy tip: Toss your ball in the air so it lands on an opponent's ball, knocking it far away from the jack. Games can be set up on almost any flat stretch of ground.


The rugby ball looks like an American football and the object is to cross the goal line with the ball or kick it between goalposts. Popular in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, France, and South Africa, this brutal sport is actually a lot different from our brand of football. Rugby players can kick the ball forward or run with it, but they can only pass it to teammates sideways or backwards. Tackling is a big part of the game, but rugby players wear almost no protective equipment. Ouch!


This age-old Native American sport is still played today. The “snake” is a polished wooden rod whose front end is shaped like a snake's head. It slides at speeds of up to 100 mph down a long, curved trail in the snow. Each team gets four chances to throw the snake. The team whose snake goes the farthest wins.

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