Famous Sports in Southeast Asia

sports in southeast asia

Southeast Asia isn’t very well known for its sporting traditions. This is a shame as there are many famous sports found across the region that locals and visitors alike can enjoy.

The ASEAN countries are home to many games that travelers will not have seen before as well as a few familiar pastimes that are internationally popular. When visiting the region, it is a good idea to have a decent level of familiarity with what sports are on offer before planning to attend a local event, or even taking part in a match whilst visiting.

To help explain the situation better, this article looks at the most famous and popular sports that visitors can experience when visiting Southeast Asia with an ASEAN visa.

Muay: Not Exclusive Only To Thailand

Most people have heard of Muay Thai kickboxing at some point or another. However, this is not only a popular sport in Thailand. Muay is practiced all over Southeast Asia and is known by many different names.

Around the region, tourists may see Muay being called:

There are often disagreements between the countries over what the correct name is. In order to quell these discrepancies, the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) has opted to simply refer to it as Muay. However, whatever the name, it is still the same style of fast and furious kickboxing visitors have come to expect.

Soccer: A Worldwide Classic

Soccer (or Football for those outside the US) is known for being a truly international sport. It there might not surprise anyone to learn that it is also widespread in Southeast Asia.

It may not have the near-universal popularity seen in Latin America or Europe but it is still easily one of the region’s biggest sports. Of all the ASEAN countries it is most played in Indonesia, where one team: Perslb Bandung, is believed to have nearly 16 million supporters.

Sepak Tekraw: A Uniquely South East Asian Ball Game

For a real taste of traditional Southeast Asian sport look no further than Sepak Tekraw.

It’s a game that’s very similar to volleyball but with one significant difference: no hands are allowed.

It is played on a court with a net in the middle. To play Sepak Tekraw effectively it’s all about using the arms, legs, and other extremities to get the ball over the net. This creates a challenging, acrobatic, and spectacular sport travelers won’t see anywhere else in the world.

The game is played a little differently in each country, but the core rules of no hands and dividing net are always constant. It is also standardized when it is played in major international sporting events such as the SEA Games.

Badminton: East meets West

Badminton may be thought of as a traditionally English sport (it is of course named after the small rural Village of Badminton in the South West of England), but it is hugely popular across Southeast Asia.

The sport is enjoying rapidly rising popularity thanks to the success of many Asian badminton players in international competitions such as the Olympic games. This has led to the uptake of the sport by people living across Southeast Asia. Visitors can, therefore, expect to see it being played in many of the parks and sports centers across the region.

Shuttlecock: Rewriting the Rules

Considering Badminton’s popularity in the region, it’s no surprise that a key part of the traditional sport has been adapted and turned into its own new pastime.

Shuttlecock is a game that functions quite similar to hacky sack in other parts of the world. Instead of using a small footbag, however, it makes use of a shuttlecock and any part of the body (but not the hands like in Sepak Tekraw) can be used to stop the shuttle from hitting the ground.

The sport is often played on the streets, although recently it has taken on a more professional edge. It has featured as a medal sport in the SEA Games on two occasions and is set to be included again in the Vietnamese hosted 2021 event.

Basketball: A Taste of America in Southeast Asia

Basketball is one of America’s most popular sports internationally and it has gained a strong following in many parts of Southeast Asia. It is played competitively in many ASEAN countries and is even the most popular sport outright in the Phillippines.

Teams and players from Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam are also starting to gain notice on the world stage and the competition looks set to grow even further in the region. Visitors should expect to see more than a few basketball courts on their travels around Southeast Asia.

Enjoying a sports match or playing a game with the locals when visiting an ASEAN country allows visitors to get up close and personal with the culture of the region. For foreign nationals meeting the correct requirements, it will presently be even easier to visit and experience the sports of Southeast Asia thanks to the soon-to-be-launched ASEAN visa.