You might be surprised, but I’m quite the sports fan! But having lived in Luxembourg for more than a decade, I’ve never really delved too deeply into the Grand-Duchy’s favorite sporting pastimes. That’s why I thought it was high time that I took some time to discover the most popular sports and pastimes that have become a way of life for Luxembourgers.
Despite the country’s small size, you’ll probably be surprised to learn that more than 100,000 Luxembourgers are licensed members of at least one sports federation. That’s quite a figure given that the nation’s population is less than half a million. Though the nation is small, they certainly take their sports seriously! Let’s take a look at the most popular sports for both playing and spectating in Luxembourg.
Earlier this year, TNS ILRES surveyed residents in Luxembourg to discover what sports Luxembourgers prefer to watch most. Unsurprisingly, football ranked first as the most popular spectator sport, both nationally and internationally. Almost one out of five (17%) of Grand Duchy respondents said they supported a local Luxembourg side and in fairness, Luxembourg football is very much on the up! Fola Esch recently made it through to the next qualifying round for the UEFA Europa League, while Progres Niederkorn stunned the football world by kicking the Scottish giants the Glasgow Rangers out of the same competition!
The second most popular spectator sport is cycling; also, unsurprising given that the nation has developed several successful professional cyclists and the proud tradition of the Tour de Luxembourg, which tends to act as a precursor to the Tour de France. Both motorsports and tennis are tied third for the most popular spectator sports among Luxembourgers.
I quickly learned, too, that although Luxembourgers love to watch professional sports, they like to play amateur sports themselves. Tennis is a particularly popular pastime for many, with 53 tennis clubs dotted around the Grand-Duchy. The sport is likely to grow in popularity, too, given that compatriot Gilles Muller is in the form of his life after reaching the Wimbledon quarterfinals this year, knocking out Rafael Nadal along the way.
Road cycling is very popular among enthusiasts as well, thanks in no small part to the relatively flat terrain, which makes it easy for amateurs to get involved!
Cricket, on the other hand, is a sport that has experienced growth in Luxembourg in recent years. Supported largely by the community of ex-pat Brits, the domestic Luxembourgish league is growing steadily, and even the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Pierre Werner, is now a patron of the national game.
Luxembourgers do partake in rather more sedate games, too, with table and card games still proving popular amongst new and old generations. Luxembourg doesn’t quite have the same tradition for casinos as other principalities like Monaco, but it does have its own casino in the heart of Mondorf-Les-Bains: Casino 2000, which has plenty slot machines, table games, and a poker room. Texas Hold’em remains one of the most popular forms of poker in Luxembourg, ahead of diversified games like Omaha and 7-card stud.
It seems that the people of Luxembourg very much have a “marmite” attitude towards sports — they either love it or hate it! In the same TNS ILRES survey, it was found that while many people love watching and partaking in sports, almost a third (31%) said that they don’t follow or play any sport at all. Oh well, horses for courses, I guess!