Football surge: Nations embrace the game like never before

Football is the world’s most popular sport, with more than 40% of people self-identifying as football fans. This is especially true in Western Europe and Latin America, where, in some countries, over 50% of people regularly follow the sport.

The FIFA World Cup is also the largest sporting event in the world, with billions of people worldwide tuning in to watch their favourite teams compete.

In recent years, some countries which do not normally follow football as closely have had an increased interest in the sport. With streaming services and other ways to collect data becoming more widely used, it is now easier than ever before to see the amount of growth that has taken place in specific areas of the world.

Football in the United States

The United States is one of the countries that has had the largest growth in viewership in recent years.

Although they are regularly a powerhouse in many international sports, the US men’s team seems to always underperform. This is likely at least somewhat due to the lack of interest in the sport in the US.

From 1937 to 1972, the number of Americans who said the sport was their favourite to watch, never rose above 0.5%, and up until 2004, that number was still below 2%.

Earlier this year, according to a poll from the Washington Post, 8% of Americans now cite international football as their favourite sport to watch. While that may seem like there is still a long way to go, that’s a 400% increase in the last 20 years.

A big reason for this increase was the inclusion of Lionel Messi into the MLS when he signed with Inter Miami for $150 million over a two-and-a-half-year period. Messi turned down a deal to play in the Saudi Pro League for $1.6 billion over three years.

Football in India

While it may seem surprising to some, India is one of the countries with the largest increase in interest in football. The percentage of people watching matches on TV doubled from 3% in 2019 to 6% in 2021.

While India has historically been a much bigger in sports like cricket, there are a few reasons why football has begun to increase in popularity.

Improvements to infrastructure in recent years, an increase in media exposure, an increase in online sports betting, and influence from other countries, have all contributed to the rise of football in India.

Football in Nigeria

Introduced to the country by the British at the start of the 20th century, football became the national sport of Nigeria less than 50 years after its introduction to the region.

Despite the Nigerian national team not qualifying for the last World Cup for first time since 2006, over 80% of Nigerians tuned in to watch the tournament unfold.

The Nigerian team is currently ranked sixth in Africa, but where they shine the most is their youth teams. Nigeria has placed first in the U20 Africa Cup of Nations more times than any other team, with them coming in third place in 2023.

Football continues to grow

One similarity between the three previously mentioned countries is the impact that youth sports have had on the sport. The United States, India, and Nigeria are far from the only countries which are seeing large growth in this area. With new generations showing an interest in the sport in many countries all around the globe, the future looks bright for the sport of football.

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