5 most popular sports in Indonesia

Like its most counterparts in Southeast Asia, Indonesia has a rich history of traditional combat sports like martial arts. The country has its own version of the sport, called Pencak Silat, a native version of martial arts that reflects a heavy influence of its culture and history. Other sports like archery, bull racing and kayaking have also been played since historic times. 

However, as modernism continues to infiltrate various cultural aspects of the country, sports in Indonesia are no exception. Contemporary sports like badminton and football have become very popular in the country, particularly among the younger generation, who consider the popular soccer players their idols.

So, if you are keen to learn which sports are popular in Indonesia, here is your chance to find out. 

Badminton In Indonesia

When it comes to picking the number one sport in any country, the first choice is football in most cases. However, badminton is the most popular sport in Indonesia, particularly from a participatory perspective.

The main reason for badminton’s popularity in Indonesia is that it is the country’s most successful sport and is considered a part of its national identity. Indonesian badminton players first participated in the Olympics in 1992 and have won a medal in every tournament except 2012. 

Besides the Olympics, Indonesian players have participated in numerous other events and gained considerable success. One of these is the Thomas Cup, the Men’s Nations Badminton Tournament. Indonesia is the most successful event of the championship, winning fourteen times out of the 24 events held to date. Similarly, the Indonesian women’s team has won the Women’s Nations Badminton Tournament three times.

Some of the most successful badminton players, like Taufik Hidayat and Susi Susanti, are very popular in the country and have inspired youngsters to learn and play badminton. People revere their idols and even like to name their children after them.

Football In Indonesia

Football may rank second to badminton in terms of overall popularity, but it is the most popular spectator sport. Football first became popular when Indonesia gained independence and has been played in the country since the 1930s. As the country became more urbanised, the sport’s popularity grew, and people began enjoying it as a recreational sport. The Football Association of Indonesia, the sport’s formal governing body, was formed in 1930 but did not become a member of FIFA until 1952. It became a member of the Asian Football Confederation in 1954 and the Asian Football Federation in 1984.

The national team was the first Asian team to qualify for FIFA World Cup in 1938 but has achieved limited success internationally since then. The team won a bronze medal in 1956 at the Asian Games. The football team’s first-ever win in the Asian Cup came in 2004 when it beat Qatar. The team has also qualified for the AFC Asian Cup 2023, its first in sixteen years. 

The domestic football league system is also quite prevalent in Indonesia, with Liga 1 as the top domestic league. It was established in 2008 and comprises eighteen teams. The Liga 1 shares a promotion and relegation system with Liga 2, the second-highest domestic football league in the country. 

Volleyball In Indonesia

Next up, we have volleyball. Like football, volleyball is also quite popular and is played widely in the country. Indonesia has numerous volleyball clubs across the countries, which are quite popular and have a large membership from locals.

However, it is mostly played by adults and youngsters as the game format is not kid-friendly. Since considerable upper arm strength and overall force is required to manoeuvre the ball, younger players prefer to play football.

Basketball In Indonesia

Basketball is another ball sport that is highly popular in Indonesia. The Indonesian national basketball team has been playing internationally since 1956, but its first prominent success came in 1996 when it won a gold medal at the Southeast Asian Basketball Championship in 1996. Today, it is one of the most prominent teams in Asia.

Indonesia hosted the Asian Basketball Championship in 2021 and is all set to host the World Cup in 2023 with Japan and the Philippines. Domestic basketball is also very popular in Indonesia, with the Indonesian Basketball League as the country’s top professional men’s league. The league was established in 2003 and has sixteen teams presently. 

Locally, younger people like basketball more than the older generation and like to play it with their peers.

Table Tennis In Indonesia

The last sport on our list is table tennis. You may find it surprising to see table tennis as one of the most popular sports in Indonesia, but in recent years, it has become widely popular across the country. 

Locals like it due to the game intensity and the skill required to beat the opponent. Like most sports, Indonesia has an official table tennis governing body, the PTMSI, that oversees and manages all aspects related to the sport in the country.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Bet On Sports In Indonesia?

Sports betting in Indonesia operates within a complex legal framework, largely due to the country’s stringent gambling laws. Despite the national sport of Indonesia being badminton, a discipline in which the country has achieved significant international success, the regulations surrounding gambling, including sports betting, are quite restrictive. Indonesia’s sports culture is vibrant, with a diverse range of activities including football, which is immensely popular among the populace, alongside badminton and pencak silat, a traditional martial art.

The legal stance on gambling in Indonesia is clear: all forms of gambling, including sports betting in Indonesia, are prohibited. This prohibition stems from the country’s majority Muslim population, for whom gambling is considered haram (forbidden) under Islamic law. Consequently, there are no legal bookmakers or betting establishments within the country where one can engage in sports betting.

Despite these restrictions, it’s noteworthy that some Indonesians participate in sports betting through online platforms, albeit at their own risk and through sites that are hosted abroad. The government has taken measures to block access to many of these online betting sites, but tech-savvy individuals often find ways to bypass such restrictions. Thus, while sports thrive and the national sport of Indonesia garners international accolades, the legal framework significantly limits sports betting within the country.


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