The Expat Hub

Spanish sports

Spain is famous for producing some of the world’s best athletes and sports teams, from the mighty football squad to tennis and formula one champion Rafael Nadal and Fernando Alonso Spain has a very proud sporting heritage. We look at the top two sports that the Spanish excel at.


The Spanish love their sport but to them football is more like a religion. It’s by far the country’s most popular sport and it’s no wonder that Spain holds both of the titles for the World and European championships. Just this year Spain did a world first by winning three major tournaments in a row an unprecedented fete.

Spain is home to what is considered the greatest football league in the world the La Liga Primera Division. Two of the world’s biggest clubs also make Spain their home. Barcelona and Real Madrid are famous the world over and have both seen great success in the domestic league and international competitions. They have won a combined 13 European cups/champions league titles and each have been runners-up three times. Real Madrid is the most successful team in Europe having won the tournament a record nine times and the UEFA cup twice. Their arch rivals Barcelona have been the only team in history to have won a sextuple in 2009, winning six trophies in a single season. They won the domestic treble of the La Liga, Copa delRey, Spanish super cup, UEFA super cup, FIFA club world cup and the Champions league.

Spanish football is renowned for its gifted players and fluent attacking style, although there are a surprising number of sterile one-sided games, lacking in excitement and passion, when teams appear paralysed by the fear of losing. Spanish football is equally noted for its cynical ‘gamesmanship’ otherwise known as cheating ,which includes every underhand trick in the book, e.g. obstruction, body-checking, shirt-pulling, elbowing, diving, ‘accidental’ tripping and collisions, and faked injuries, all of which Spanish players have perfected. Players often do their utmost to get opposing players booked or sent off.

Every town in Spain has a football pitch and team, and indoor football (fútbol sala) is also played in sports centres throughout the country. Spanish children learn to play football almost as soon as they can walk, with the most promising players being snapped up by the major clubs and coached from an early age in football schools.


Spain boasts not just a European winning football team but also a championship winning basketball team. The men’s international basketball team are the reigning champions of Europe and are second in the World rankings behind the United States. Spain’s national team has won the European Championship twice in 2009 and 2011, won the FIBA world cup once in 2006 and won two silver medals at the Olympic Games in both 1984 and 2008.

There are four tiers of basketball in the Spanish national leagues with Liga ACB being the top league. The most successful teams are the same as those in the football leagues with Real Madrid and Barcelona fielding the best Basketball teams in the country. Real has won the league a whopping 30 times and dominates the sport.