Top 6 Most Popular Sports For South African Punters

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by George Abebe
| 19/10/2021

Sports betting has a long history in South Africa, though it has never been as popular as it is today, thanks to the Internet and online sports betting. It's all because of the global computer network it is possible to bet online on literally hundreds of different platforms and sports betting sites. Because the choice is so large, South African bettors have the luxury to put their money on whatever sport/competition they wish, including such things as hot dog eating contests.

Still, despite being able to bet on whatever they want, Africans do tend to stick to a couple of popular sports. Soccer is leading the way as the most popular sport in South Africa, as well as around the world, both among sports fans and among bettors.

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1. Soccer Betting

More than 80% of Africa's gambling activity takes place in South Africa, whose bettors go with soccer betting online and offline as their preferred choice. This sport has a rich history in South Africa, the country that hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2010.

Most Popular Sports To Bet On In SAThe clubs from its domestic league (South Africa Premier League) regularly compete in continental championships such as the CAF Champions League, usually with decent success. Furthermore, South Africa has spawned plenty of players who have reached global stardom, e.g., Benni McCarthy or Lucas Radebe.

It's pretty much the same with Nigeria, which is another African country where online betting is surging at the moment. Nigeria's internet gaming revenue is estimated to be around $45 million, and a large chunk of that money is regularly wagered on football. Other African countries crazy about this sport include Kenya, Senegal, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and so on.

Then, there's also Egypt. Even though bookmakers aren't allowed to operate in this country, Egyptians do find ways to bet on their favourite teams and players. So, what is their favourite team? There are plenty of popular teams based in Egypt, but since 2017, Egyptians seem to be obsessed with Liverpool! It's because that year was when Mohamed Salah joined the Reds.

2. Basketball Betting

As of summer 2021, there are only six non-American players who have won the NBA MVP award. One of those is Hakeem Olajuwon of Nigeria, who won the accolade in the 1993-94 season. The man was crucial to the rise of basketball in his home country, as well as in many other nations across the continent.

Speaking of the MVPs, there's another winner who was born in Africa. Although he's representing Greece, the two-time NBA MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo traces his roots to Nigeria. In fact, his parents moved to Greece from Nigeria just three years before he was born.

It's not just Nigeria that's crazy about basketball betting. The same goes for Cameroon, especially in the last couple of years. The reason behind this is the emergence of Joel Embiid, a Philadelphia centre.

3. Rugby Betting

In 2010, Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon received Oscar nominations for their roles in the Clint Eastwood movie Invictus. The movie tells the tale of the South Africa rugby team at the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

Invictus brought this story to a global audience, showing the world that rugby has a special place in the hearts of South Africans. Not only do they love the sport, but they also love to bet on rugby matches.

Apart from South Africa, there are a few other countries on the continent where rugby betting is a common activity. Some of those include Ivory Coast, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.

4. Cricket Betting

Although it's nowhere near popular as the previously mentioned three sports, cricket does have loyal followership in a couple of African countries. South Africa leads the way, followed by Kenya and Zimbabwe.

In all those countries, cricket betting is a common activity. Bettors tend to pick matches from the national competitions, as well as some international championships (like the T20 World Cup, for example).

On top of that, the Indian Premier League is also very popular among cricket betting fans. This goes especially for countries with a large Indian diaspora, like Madagascar, Mauritius, Nigeria, and so on.  

5. MMA Betting

When it comes to MMA betting in Africa, it's all about Francis Ngannou these days. Born and bred in Cameroon, Ngannou went on to become the UFC Heavyweight Champion. Whenever he's fighting, a large amount of money is being wagered all across Africa.

Apart from Ngannou, Africans also like betting on other MMA fighters who have emerged from this continent, particularly Kamaru Usman Israel Adesanya (both from Nigeria).

The UFC might be the #1 pick of African MMA bettors, but other promotions are popular as well. For instance, the Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) had almost 15.5 million South African viewers in 2019. Something similar happened in Senegal with the ARES Fighting Championship. It's only natural to assume that the popularity of mixed martial arts is going to become even greater in years to come.

6. Betting Horse Racing

Horse races alongside horse racing betting is one of the sports with the longest tradition in South Africa, with its history going back many centuries. When it comes to horse racing betting, it's also been around for a long time. However, this activity was illegal in most parts of Africa in the past.

The good news for horse racing fans is that that's no longer the case, at least not in a majority of African countries. In the countries where online sports betting is legal, Africans have the luxury to wager their money on horse racing events.

Their betting choices are usually focused on local events, such as those taking place in South Africa (Cape Metropolitan Stakes), Kenya (Ngong Racecourse races), or Zimbabwe (Borrowdale Park races).

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