As a physically diverse state, Slovenia offers numerous opportunities for sporting activities. Slovenians are naturally a sports-loving country and do not just follow sports but also participate in various games.
In a country of 2.1 million people, where more than 660,000 individuals participate in one sport or the other, it is easy to presume that the country’s residents are passionate about sports and consider them an effective form of physical exercise and recreation.
The country features year-round entertaining events for sports enthusiasts and fun seekers. Moreover, activities are also planned at the professional and institutional levels. Consequently, the nation thrives on the activity, and its people excel at various sports disciplines.
Let’s have a look at five of the most popular sports in Slovenia.
Football In Slovenia
The most popular sport in Slovenia is football. The country has been taking part in the sport internationally since 1991 after Slovenia gained independence from Yugoslavia. German and Hungarian minorities founded the first football clubs in the region in the early 1900s. Soon, the sport’s popularity spread to other regions, including the Slovenian schools that established their teams in the country’s major cities.
In 1920, the Ljubljana Football Sub association was formed, with the founding members being the German teams from Maribor, Slovan and Ilirija. The association is the precursor to the Football Association of Slovenia. Ljubljana formed the Slovenian national team, which played its first international match in 1921.
When Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia, most Slovenian football clubs played in the Yugoslavian football league system. When the country gained independence in 1991, cup competitions and national league contests were formed according to the structures of the Yugoslavian league. The first season of the Slovenian PrvaLiga had 21 teams. The same year, the SR Slovenia regional faction was reformed as the national football team and played its first international match in 1992.
The national football team currently ranks 63rd in FIFA and has qualified for the World Cup twice, in 2002 and 2010. The team also qualified for the UEFA Euro Championship in 2000.
The Slovenian PrvaLiga is the top league in the country with ten clubs. It follows a relegation and promotion system with the Slovenian Second League, having 16 teams.
Basketball In Slovenia
The second most popular sport on the list is basketball. The Basketball Federation of Slovenia was established in 1950, and the national team has been participating in international basketball competitions since 1991, following the country’s independence.
The basketball team became a member of FIBA in 1992. The basketball team is one of the most successful teams in the country. The team has participated in every EuroBasket competition and has qualified for the knockout stage in every tournament since 2005. In 2017, the team won all nine games played in the EuroBasket and the championship. The team currently ranks 7th in FIBA.
Among the basketball leagues, the ABA League First Division is the top-tier professional basketball league for men. It currently has 14 teams and follows a relegation and demotion system with the ABA Second Division.
Ice Hockey In Slovenia
On the third number, we have ice hockey. The national ice hockey team of Slovenia participated internationally for the first time in 1993, and since then, it has taken part in 28 World Championships till now and has qualified nine times for the top division. At the local level, the highest level of competition is the Slovenia Ice Hockey Championship.
Slovenian ice hockey players have also played in the National Hockey League. One of the most notable athletes is Anze Kopitar, who plays for the Los Angeles Kings. Other notable players include Jan Mursak, Robert Kristan, Marcel Rodman, Ziga Jeglic and Ziga Pence.
Handball In Slovenia
The fourth most popular sport in Slovenia is handball. The national handball team has taken part nine times in the World Championships and thirteen times in the European Championship. The team stood third in the World Championship in 2017 and secured second place in the European Championship in 2004.
At the club level, one of the most successful clubs is RK Celje, which won the 2004 EHF Champions League, the most prestigious club handball competition in Europe. Other competitive clubs include RD Slovan and RK Koper.
Rugby Union In Slovenia
The last sport on our list is rugby union, which is gaining traction in Slovenia. The Rugby Union of Slovenia governs the sport. The national rugby union team has yet to qualify for the World Cup and currently ranks 43rd by the World Rugby.
Slovenia is home to various local clubs, which have contributed to increasing the sport’s popularity in the country.