Football is by far the most popular sport in the world, with millions of fans on every continent. It’s played by kids across the globe and has become increasingly popular even in countries where it’s traditionally been a fringe sport, such as the USA.
But what are the main reasons football has managed to remain so popular over the decades? That’s what we’re going to find out.
A huge part of what makes kids fall in love with the sport from a young age is the superstar players. When football first started being televised in the 40s and 50s, it allowed for global stars to be born, from the likes of early stars like Pele and Di Stefano all the way to modern day icons like Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, Mbappe and Haaland. These are the types of players who inspire a whole generation.
Today, superstar players have huge international followings, with many younger fans supporting players as much as teams. A player like Cristiano Ronaldo for example, has the biggest Instagram following of any person on earth, with a staggering 506M followers.
Another big reason football is so big is its historic international tournaments, such as the World Cup and Euros. These international tournaments have produced many iconic moments seen by people around the world, with World Cup betting odds attracting competitive fans to put their love, knowledge, and predictions for the sport to use.
The FIFA World Cup is the biggest tournament in football and has been held every four years since it began in 1930. Since then, there have been many iconic moments that have captured fans’ imaginations.
Such moments include Pele lifting the trophy for the 3rd time after Brazil defeated Italy in the 1970 final, Maradona’s goal of the century in the 1986 tournament and the infamous hand of god incident that took place in the same game. These moments stay in peoples’ memories and help to make football as iconic as it is.
Rivalries are found throughout football, both at club and international level, and are a massive part of what makes the game so appealing to fans. Some of the biggest rivals feature in iconic games that are watched by fans around the world.
For example, the games between Manchester United and Liverpool, despite not being city rivals, attract the biggest international audience of all Premier League games. Perhaps the most famous rivalry in all of football is between Real Madrid and Barcelona. Known as El Classico, these games attract huge audiences internationally, particularly so during the years Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi played in them.
Relegation and promotion
Unlike some franchise sports, like those popular in the States, football has a very fair system where any team can get promoted into or relegated out of their division based on their performances over the season.
This sense of fairness is another big part of what makes football so popular since fans of any team can dream of one day seeing their club lift the biggest prize. This was never more apparent than with Leicester City’s incredible Premier League title win in 2016.
There has been no shortage of iconic teams over the years, from the Brazil teams of the 1970s and 80s to incredible club teams, such as Manchester United’s treble winning team of ‘99, the Arsenal Invincibles, and the Barcelona team of 2008-2012.
Teams such as this help create a new generation of football fans and forge loyalties for decades to come.
No barrier to entry
Unlike a lot of other sports that either require expensive equipment or access to the right setting to play, football has almost no barrier to entry. All you need is a football and you can play some variant of the game almost anywhere.
This ease of access means that kids who are old enough to walk can play the game and even those in impoverished countries can enjoy the game from a young age. Brazil, for example, has a particularly strong passion for football and incredible heritage as a footballing nation despite being far from a wealthy country.
Easy to understand
Another thing that makes football so popular is that it’s very easy to understand. Even if you’d never watched a football game before, it’s easy to understand what the objective is and the basic rules of play.
The rules of certain tournaments might be tougher to follow for new fans but as far as the game itself goes, it’s very easy to understand, even for much younger fans.
The birth of the Premier League
There’s no doubt the Premier League has played a big part in how big football is globally. The most watched and richest league in the world, it has featured many iconic teams and players over the years.
When it was first introduced in 1992, it saw the beginning of foreign players starting to come into the league. Iconic players like Klinssman and David Ginola paved the way for many other iconic names that would join the league from afar in the coming years and help to create a truly iconic and international league enjoyed the world over.