Sports in Moldova began to flourish when the country gained independence from the Soviet Union. Like its counterparts in the region, Moldova has embraced western influences while still holding on to its traditional practices, and sports are no exception.
It is why you will find a wide range of sports popular in the country. From Tranta, a traditional wrestling sport, to football, the locals prefer to watch and play many different kinds of games.
Moldova has also gained international success and recognition in many disciplines, including boxing, wrestling, judo, weightlifting, swimming, archery, and canoeing. Moldovan athletes have won numerous gold, silver, and bronze medals in these and other disciplines in world championships, European championships, and the Olympics.
While the country has achieved success in various individual sports, team sports are more popular from a spectatorship perspective. Continue reading to learn about the most popular sports in Moldova.
Football In Moldova
Football is the most popular sport in Moldova. The Moldovan Football Federation governs the national football team. The team played its first international match against Georgia in July 1991, a while before the country gained independence.
The team has not been able to qualify for the FIFA World Cup to date and has ended in the last or second last place in the qualifying rounds, except for the qualifiers for the UEFA Euro Cup in 2008. The team finished the round in Group C in the fifth position of seven teams.
The team has enjoyed a little international success, beating established players like Hungary, Belarus, and Austria.
The top division of the Moldovan football league system is the Moldovan Super Liga. It was established in 1992 and currently has 8 teams. The league follows a relegation and promotion system with the Moldovan Liga 1, the second-highest league in the country. The most successful and current champion team of the league is Sheriff Tiraspol.
Basketball In Moldova
The second most popular sport in Moldova is basketball. During the past decade, the national basketball team has gained attention by securing a top place in the FIBA European Championship for Small Countries. The team won silver medals in the championship in 2008 and 2012.
The team is regulated by the Basketball Federation of Moldova, which was established in 1991 and joined FIBA a year later. During the 90s, the only international contest the team participated in was the qualifying round for the EuroBasket in 1993. The team did not participate in any international competition for another nine years until it participated in the European Championship for Small Countries in 2002. It finished in fifth place in that competition.
Moldova also has a league system, and the Moldovan National Division is the top league in the country. The league has eight teams and follows a relegation and promotion format with the country’s second-tier league, the A Division.
Rugby Union In Moldova
The popularity of rugby union has increased in the past two decades. The country’s national rugby union team, called the Haiducii, plays in the Conference 2 North, a second-tier European Rugby Championship. The team has not yet been able to qualify for the Rugby World Cup. The team currently ranks 41st in the world.
The popularity of rugby has increased significantly over the years. The number of spectators at rugby matches has increased to thousands, while the number of players has more than doubled in the country.
Unlike other team sports like basketball and football, Moldova does not have a rugby league. The competition was established in 1993 but is not played anymore.
Cycling In Moldova
Cycling is a popular hobby in Moldova, which is not surprising considering the country’s beautiful landscape. The country has various interesting cycling routes that tourists and locals like equally.
The activity also receives significant attention as a professional sport. Moldova’s President’s Cup is the country’s most prestigious road bicycle racing tournament. The event was established in 2003 and receives participation from foreign contestants belonging to neighbouring regions as well.
Wrestling In Moldova
The last sport on our list is wrestling. The national sport of Moldova is Tranta, a traditional form of wrestling. It is a common feature at local festivals in summer. The sport is played in outdoors on a mat or grass. Wrestlers wear shorts and are allowed to grip their opponents’ legs. When a wrestler has his opponent on his back for a certain number of seconds, he wins the game.
Besides the sports mentioned above, winter sports are also quite popular in Moldova. Moldovan cross-country skiers and Alpine skiers have gained considerable international attention.