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What You Need to Know About Sports in Portugal

Updated: February 27, 2024
By: Adriana Pinto

Sports in Portugal are extremely prevalent. If you’re the type of person who enjoys nothing more than spending time playing or watching sports, Portugal could be your dream ticket. Sport plays a huge and important role in Portuguese culture, spanning a diverse range of activities that go beyond the obvious. Here are the basics of what you need to know about sports in Portugal!

Frederik Pohl
Frederik Pohl, CEO
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What Are the National Sports of Portugal? 

There’s really just one national sport in Portugal, and that’s football. The Portugal football team is the pride and joy of millions of devoted fans. The whole thing is less of a pastime, and more of a religion for those involved. Club football and international football are also almost equally popular. You’ll regularly find local cafes and bars packed out when even the lowest-key local games are being broadcast live. 

What Are the Most Popular Sports in Portugal? 

There’s a good deal of diversity in the sports that take centre stage in Portugal. Irrespective of what you’re (or if you’re looking to get into something completely new), you’ll be in your element.

According to the results of the most recent polls conducted nationwide, these are the most popular sports in Portugal right now by a clear margin:


Once again, football tops the table as the official national obsession in Portugal. The most popular teams are the big three (“os três grandes”) – SL Benfica, Futebol Clube do Porto and Sporting CP. Most people support one of these teams, plus a more local team, usually. The national league is called Primeira Liga.

The most famous names in the sport that hail from Portugal include Cristiano Ronaldo, Eusébio and Luís Figo. 

benfica sports portugal
SL Benfica
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Futebol Clube do Porto
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Sporting CP

Second to football comes basketball, which is the country’s second most popular sport. S. L. Benfica and FC Porto have seen a degree of success over the past few years, and have found their way into a number of major international tournaments. If you’re into basketball, you’ll probably know a few of the household names Portugal has graced with the game. The most popular one being Neemias Queta, now in the NBA. 


Popular across much of Europe but with a far smaller international following, Futsal was actually invented right back in 1930 in Uruguay. It shot to fame after the first ever FIFA World Cup, but never really caught on outside Europe and South America. Futsal is massively popular in Portugal, and well worth trying out if you’ve never given it a go before. Just a few top-name players on the futsal scene who were born in Portugal include Ricardinho, Bebé, Afonso Jesus and Tiago Brito.

Water Sports 

Unsurprisingly, water sports are also a big deal in Portugal. The Portuguese coastline extends for more than 1,115 miles, paving the way for pretty much every aquatic activity on the spectrum. Sailing, surfing, kayaking and swimming are immensely popular in Portugal – both on a professional level and with the locals who enjoy getting out and about. If you’re into water sports, you may well have heard of such famous figures from Portugal as Miguel Nascimento, Frederico Morais and José Lopes.

patricia mamona - sports portugal
Patrícia Mamona

The athletics scene in Portugal is thriving, making it the fifth most popular sporting activity in the country. Portugal has produced a long list of huge international stars – particularly in long-distance running disciplines. Examples of these include Rosa Mota, Carlos Lopes, and Manuela Machado. Patrícia Mamona and Nelson Évora are very popular in the Triple Jump. Portugal also hosts one of the most important annual cross-country running events in the world – the Oeiras International Cross Country, and the Almond Blossom Cross Country. 


Portugal’s unique landscape and idyllic scenery create the perfect backdrop for a spot of enjoyable cycling. Not to mention, one of the most competitive cycling cultures in Europe. The Volta a Portugal is one of the continent’s most important annual cycling events, pulling in professionals from all over the world.

Rugby Union

Last but not least, rugby union may be a surprise entry to the list for some. It may not be nearly as popular as football, but more than 50,000 regularly participate in amateur or semi-professional rugby union across Portugal. The numbers are also growing by the day, and watching international rugby fixtures is a popular pastime among locals. Some of the more famous players Portugal has gifted the scene over the years include Vasco Uva, Gonçalo Uva and Joaquim Ferreira.

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