Sports In Malaysia – 3 Popular Sports You Need To Know

Last week we talked about Malaysia’s flag and its history. This week we will learn more about sports in Malaysia that Malaysians go crazy for. Tokyo, the Olympics 2021, had its closing ceremony last week on August 8, 2021. Since the Olympics is still fresh in our minds, let’s talk more about it. If you want to learn more about sports from other countries, you can click here.

If you want to discuss the most famous sports in Malaysia, you will get different answers. Some Malaysians deem sports that we manage to have a national team is considered popular; some believe that any type of traditional or national sport is supposed to be on top of the list, while others trust the big number of a crazy fanbase to be the judge of that. Some of these you might see everywhere and some you may only enjoy in certain parts of the world. So if you happen to be in this country, here are some popular sports in Malaysia that you may come across.


Sports In The Malay Language

If you want to say sports in Malay, you can use ‘sukan’ (pronunciation: soo-cun, rhymes with ‘gun’).

The word ‘exercise’ in Malay is ‘senam’ (pronunciation: suh-num). Meanwhile, the word ‘play’ in Malay is ‘main’ (pronunciation: muh-yeen).


Football in Malay is Bola Sepak; where ‘bola’ means ‘ball,’ while ‘sepak’ means ‘kick.’ Of course, Malaysia is over-familiar with the football craze, which is not a surprise since it is a popular sport worldwide. It is the most discussed topic- World Cup, especially by the male community, but we also have plenty of female fans.

The national team for the Malaysian football team is named Harimau Malaya (Malayan Tigers); even though the football team has never made it to the world cup, they do perform well when they go against the neighboring countries. This is also why the football fans never gave up hope on them- we all believed that our football team would qualify for the World Cup one day. The Malaysia women’s national team also has the same name, Harimau Malaya.

Since not many football fans have the privilege to enjoy the sport at the stadium, many decided to enjoy it on the TV at home or at their local Mamak Restaurant, where they usually have a big screen with the football match projected on it. Youngsters also enjoyed football in their own way; football is the most preferred sport during PE and also during playtime with neighbors.


Badminton (also the same name in Malay) became a popular sport in Malaysia a while ago. This is most probably due to Malaysia’s history with badminton and the Olympic games. Ever since the Sidek Brothers won Malaysia’s first Olympic medals in the 1992 Summer Olympics, Malaysia has tried to send Badminton players to compete in the Olympics. As for now, Malaysia has won 13 Olympic medals in total, and nine of them were from badminton.

Datuk Lee Chong Wei is the player with the most Olympic medals; he won silver in the 2008 Beijing, 2012 London, and also the 2016 Rio de Janeiro. Lee Chong Wei is also the reason why badminton is one of the popular sports in Malaysia. His first Olympic medal in 2008 is the first medal Malaysia won in 12 years. Since then, Malaysians have always idolized Lee Chong Wei. They were sad to see him retiring, but the new players are promising: the young and promising Lee Zii Jia and the Olympic medalists Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik have gained many badminton fans around Malaysia are eagerly waiting for the next match.

Sepak Takraw

Sepak Takraw or kick volley is considered to be Malaysia’s official national sport- since the name itself is Malay. However, it also has a different name in Malay – Sepak Raga; ‘raga’ can be translated to ‘basket’ because the traditional basket is made from rattan, the same material used for the traditional ball for Sepak Takraw many local children still uses.

The sport is almost similar to volleyball, except there is a “no-hands” rule. This means the players are allowed to use any part of their body, like feet, knees, shoulder, head, and chest, except their hands and arm. Since a lot of focus was given to body and leg movements, this sport uses more aerobics compared to western volleyball.

Sports In Malaysia

There are 2 ways to play Sepak Takraw,

  1. Bulatan: Bulatan means ‘circle’ in English. This is the traditional or the original version of this sport. The key is to gather around in a circle and pass the rattan ball to each other without using hands or dropping the ball.
  2. Jaring: Jaring means ‘net’ in English. This is considered the modern version of the sport, where players pass the ball over the net, similar to volleyball.

This sport of Malaysia is also hugely popular in south-east Asia like Thailand, Philippines. Sadly, Sepak Takraw is not part of the Olympics. But don’t be surprised if it happens in the nearest future! To Malaysians, playing this game is more than celebrating a national sport. But it is also a way to celebrate our culture and traditions.


Sports-Related Vocabulary

There are many more sports that Malaysians enjoy, as a sports activity or as fans only, but these three stand out the most. Some of the others include:

Field HockeyHoki
Cycling RaceLumba Basikal
VolleyballBola Tampar
NetballBola Jaring

Here are also other related Malay words to spice up your Malay vocab.

FootballBola Sepak
BallBola Sepak
ShuttlecockBulu Tangkis


Play Sports In Malaysia

So which sport is the most famous? Malaysians have difficulty choosing since it’s very subjective, so we just enjoy any sport to the fullest. So why don’t you have a try at these sports in Malaysia? You can always depend on Ling App to prepare you for your visit to Malaysia, language-wise. The Ling app can teach you grammar, vocab, and many more language components for over 60 languages all over the world- CantoneseAlbanianFrench, and many more. (Psst, now is a good idea to learn French to prepare yourself for Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, maybe as a volunteer). The best part is it is free, and you get to learn at your own pace!

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