For a country with a small population, Cypriots have an appetite for many different kinds of sports. While football dominates the field in terms of popularity, the locals like to indulge in watching and playing a wide variety of sports. Let’s have a look at some of the most popular sports in the country.
Football In Cyprus
Football is, hands down, the most popular sport in Cyprus. It was the British who introduced the sport in the country in the early 20th century. Over time, the residents embraced it, and its popularity grew in a short time. Football clubs were established across the country that engaged in friendly matches.
As the popularity of football grew, the clubs decided to establish the Cyprus Football Association in 1934 to regulate the sport. The association organised official matches and competitions as well. In 1948, Cyprus became a member of FIFA but did not become affiliated with the UEFA till 1962.
Although the popularity of football is still at an all-time high, the national football team has been unable to qualify for any major international competition. However, football clubs are active participants in regional competitions without any significant success.
The top-tier football league in the country is the Cypriot First Division. It is a semi-professional league with 14 teams. The most successful club to date is APOEL FC. The club qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2012 and has won 28 national championships.
Basketball In Cyprus
The second most popular sport in Cyprus is basketball. Like football, it is mostly popular as a spectator sport. In previous years, basketball was among the sports disciplines that took a hit due to the prevalent economic crisis in the country, particularly the basketball league. Sponsors pulled out from the sport, which was a huge setback and disappointing for the fans.
However, things are on the right track since the economic situation is improving. The national basketball team joined FIBA in 1974. The team has not yet qualified for major international events like the World Cup, the Olympics, and EuroBasket.
However, it participates in the Championship of Small Countries and Games of Small States of Europe and has won gold, silver, and bronze medals in various instances. The national team is currently placed at 82nd place in the FIBA rankings.
The Cypriot Basketball Division is the top-tier professional basketball league in the country. The Athlitiki Enosi Lemesou is the most successful team in the league and has successfully participated in The FIBA EuroCup and Euro Challenge.
Volleyball In Cyprus
Volleyball is another popular sport in Cyprus. The Cyprus Volleyball Federation was established in 1978. The federation has contributed significantly to the sport’s growth in the country.
Cyprus has men’s and women’s national volleyball teams. The league system is also in place in the country, with the 1st and 2nd Division as the top and second-tier leagues. The most successful team is the Omonia, with Pafiakos following closely behind.
Beach Volleyball is also popular in Cyprus. The women’s national beach volleyball competed at the CEV Beach Volleyball Continental Cup in 2018-2020.
Rugby Union In Cyprus
The next most popular sport on our list is rugby, which is a minor and newer sport compared to other disciplines but gaining popularity. Cyprus does not have a very old history of rugby. The sport was first introduced in the region in the 1950s by the British Armed Forces; however, Cyprus did not become a member of the FIRA until 2006.
The team played its first international match against Greece in 2007 and won the game. In the same year, the team won the FIRA 3D Tournament. The team, however, lost to Israel in the playoffs and could not be promoted to the 3C level.
The national rugby union team currently plays in the 2B level as it won promotions in 2008 and 2010. The league format for the sport was introduced in the country in the 1980s by the British Forces; however, the first club was formed in 2003.
Athletics In Cyprus
The last discipline on our list is athletics. The sport’s popularity is due to the success of Cypriot athletes in the Olympics and athletic competitions. Cyprus has been participating in the Olympics since 1980. Some of the most notable athletes include Pavlos Kontides, the first Cypriot athlete to win an Olympic medal. He won a silver medal in 2012 in the men’s Laser class sailing event.
Other notable entrants are Kyriakos Ioannou and Eleni Artymata, who won medals for high jumping and sprint races, respectively. Cypriot athletes have also achieved success in the Paralympic games. Antonis Aresti and Karolina Pelendritou have won numerous gold medals for their country.