Best Sporting Events to See in Foreign Countries

One of the most fun and immersive ways to explore a new culture is to participate in viewing a local sporting event. It’s true, there is nothing like a little competition, often times a little beer, and a lot of fun cheering with the locals to get a real experience of the cultural cross-section of a new country. So get out your vuvzela, your cowbell, or whatever you need to make some noise, grab some tickets, and let’s get in the mix!

Cock-fighting in the Philippines.

First off, disclaimer, if you are not into seeing animals die or you are sensitive to the sight of a little blood then this is not for you. Now, for everyone else one of the best ways to get right into the mix of the Filipino community is to go to a cockfight.  The male dominated audience will be cheering and making stiff bets almost every Sunday in any town in the Philippines. Known to the locals as The Derby, you get to see cocks go to war, the winner going to glory, the loser going to soup ingredients. There is even a cockfighting arena in the major cities like Manila. But don’t be surprised if you make a few friends, just don’t make bets unless you know what you are doing because there are consequences (ass beatings) for those that can’t pay up.

Holding out champion cock
Holding out champion cock “Lil Steve”.

Muay Thai Kickboxing in Thailand

With names like “The Most Dangerous Sport in the World” and “King of Martial Arts” you don’t have to worry about the excitement of this event. Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand and fighters get in the ring at such a young age don’t be surprised to see a 14 year old with 200 fights under his or her belt. You can see a fight in several locations any weekend, particularly in front of many of the malls, but for the most authentic experience you should head to Lumpinee Boxing Stadium, which is known as the Mecca of the Kickboxing in the world.

This little girl has had over 20 fights, 18 against boys, and won almost all of them.
This little girl has had over 20 fights, 18 against boys, and won almost all of them.

Football in England

As an Americano oversees one of the big adjustments I’ve had to make is by calling soccer by it’s proper name, football, and by learning everything about it I can if I ever hope to talk sports with the rest of the world. Football is truly the world’s sport, but perhaps no place is more exciting to see a match than in England. Crazy fans chanting songs for each of their favorite players living and dying on every goal, this is a must.  Try to hit a big game and catch some of the better-known teams for the full experience, such as Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Newcastle United, and Tottenham Hotspur.


Tell me you don't want to get rowdy with these guys.
Tell me you don’t want to get rowdy with these guys.

Sumo Wrestling in Japan

Do I really need to go into further explanation here about why this is awesome? Two giant men crashing into each other at full speed to determine supremacy of a small dirt circle, now that could be the most ancient sport of them all. No place of course does it better than Japan where the well-fed wrestlers live like superstars and the culture and the tradition of the sport is as rich and old as that of a tea ceremony.  In this sport you can feel the ancient samurai spirit of Japan.


That is a lot of man.
That is a lot of man.

Hurling in Ireland

Hurling was a completely unknown sport to me, that is until I met another super traveler, all around awesome dude, and professional hurler Diarmuid Lyng on a journey from China through Nepal to Tibet. Needless to say he had a little time to explain it. With a tradition that goes way back in Gaelic history almost 3,000 years perhaps no game represents a culture like Hurling. Called the fastest game on grass, hurling is a team sport involving a wooden stick, a ball, body checking, a goal, speed, and skill. This Irish sport might just accidentally become your favorite.


My buddy Gizzy, better known as Diarmuid Lyng, breaking his hurley in the heat of sport over some dudes melon. Badass.
My buddy Gizzy, better known as Diarmuid Lyng, breaking his hurley in the heat of sport over some dudes melon. Badass.

Hopefully by now your blood is pumping, your throat is soar from cheering, and your hands are sweaty from adrenaline, and you have just participated in a cultural exchange and a local sporting event!

Next entry: Five Places to Start your Adventure in Beijing


  • carm

    Posted on April 04, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    hi. i found your blog through johnny ward. great post. the title instantly got my attention. it immediately reminded me of my recent trip in Palawan, Philippines wherein I shared a van with other travelers and there was this american guy who talked loudly how filipino culture of cockfighting is crazy and that filipinos love killing chickens. Cockfighting is off of course, especially in the western perspective, but more than being a sport, this cultural phenomena actually came about because of Philippine’s centuries of experience with foreign domination.

  • Stephen

    Posted on April 04, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Carm, first off, Palawan is amazing I miss it immensely. Great insight on the cockfighting, it really blew my mind what a community thing it was. I felt like I was at a high school football game in America, everyone comes out, eats food, and has fun.  Thanks for visiting my site!

  • carm

    Posted on April 05, 2012 at 11:38 am

    yes palawan was amazing. good to know youve been there. people of different cultures have different ways of having fun. poor me. although im filipino i havent seen an actual cockfighting event in my whole life. maybe should add that to my list. good luck on your travels stephen! will be following closely.

  • Diarmuid Lyng

    Posted on April 05, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Great stuff man. You’re a great writer and coupled with the fact that you are on one of the greatest travel adventures I’ve ever known, the blog is a great read, though I’m nowhere near through it as I will be soon! I hope you are well and that you will indeed be in Europe again soon, I think that was part of the plan. If you don’t make it this far over then I’m thinking a trip to Europe is about needed at this point smile Stay safe man and take care.
    Lots of Love,

  • Stephen

    Posted on April 07, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Gizzy, thanks for the support man, I promise to keep updating as much as possible! I haven’t even written about Tibet yet, so keep an eye out for that in the future, that will be a good one. Hope to see you in Europe this year brother man- Stephen

  • Stephen

    Posted on April 07, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks Carm, I loved the Philippines and can’t wait to return!

  • Brian

    Posted on April 16, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Of course the Irish sport is the best and the most bad ass!  Did that even need to be debated????

  • Stephen

    Posted on April 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Haha, Brian, I should have known, hurling is definitely one of the most bad ass sports!

  • Milagro

    Posted on May 27, 2012 at 12:11 am

    First off I would like to say terrific blog! I had a quick qutiseon in which I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing. I have had a hard time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out there. I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Cheers!

  • Stephen

    Posted on May 27, 2012 at 9:51 am

    Just write about what you know Milagro, you can’t write about advenutre until you go one one!

  • Stephen

    Posted on August 21, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    Sure, if you provide a reference point and a link back to this article it is no problem at all.

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