Asia contains some of the most populous areas on the Earth. It is only natural, then, that sports play a huge role in Asian society. From team sports like soccer (football) and cricket to individual sports like tennis and golf, Asia is a sportsman’s paradise. This continent is also home to the second biggest multi-sport sporting event. The Asiad or the Asian Games are held every four years and only rival the Olympics in scope.
One of the most popular sports in Asia is cricket. Cricket was brought to the continent by English colonials in the late 1700’s to early 1800’s. With nations playing in test matches against English and other European teams, the need to organize Asian cricket did not happen immediately. However, in 1983, the Asian Cricket Council was established to regulate the sport. India has become a world power in this sport with constant high rankings and two World Cup titles.
The organization of soccer in Asia took place a little quicker than cricket. With the introduction of regional competitions in the 1950’s and some successful sports marketing campaigns, Asian soccer began to grow in talent and in the amount of fans watching each match. On the global scale, South Korea has shown the most promise with a fourth place finish in the World Cup and routine trips to the Olympics.
When mentioning Japan, one has to think about baseball. While baseball is now impacting India, South Korea and China, Japanese baseball has been organized since 1934. Today it is a fully operating major league similar to that of the United States. It also allows foreign players to compete. Japan and Korea have also sent stars to America including Ichiro Suzuki, Hideo Nomo, and Chan Ho Park. Former Japanese superstar Sadaharu Oh is also the professional homerun king with 868 lifetime round trippers.
Table tennis, badminton, golf and tennis started out as recreational or club sports in Asia. However, when table tennis and badminton organized into professional organizations, the continent began to dominate year in and year out. China and Indonesia lead the way in badminton world championships while Chinese players routinely rule table tennis. Professional golf and tennis are only beginning to feel the impact of Asian athletes with the help of sports sponsorships and as these sports become more popular the impact should become greater. A mention should go to LPGA Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak of South Korea, who won 25 tournaments on the tour.