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Thai Sports Vocabulary: Popular Sports in Thailand

March 7, 2022


Ever wondered what the most popular sports in Thailand are? There are many different sports that Thai people enjoy watching or taking part in. There are plenty of gyms, courts, and fields where they can play and practice. Despite how hot Thai weather can be, many sports are played outdoors in the fresh air. 

Of course, Thai people like many of the same sports as everywhere else, but there are some special mentions that you may not see abroad. Here is a list of some of the more popular sports in Thailand, and what you are likely to see while you are here. 

Sepak Takraw is popular in Thailand

Vocabulary For Sports In Thai

When you want to explain about taking part in sports, you can try practicing these Thai phrases.

To say ‘play’ in Thai, you can use ‘len’ (เล่น). You can then place ‘len’ in front of the sport to say that you are playing it. 

So, to say you are playing basketball, you use the phrase ‘len baat get bon’ (เล่นบาสเกตบอล). 

For badminton, you say ‘len bad min tan’ (เล่นแบดมินตัน).

Golf in Thai is ‘gawf‘ (กอล์ฟ).

For swimming, you say ‘wai nam’ (ว่ายน้ำ).

Running, on the other hand, is ‘wing’ (วิ่ง).

Exercise in Thai is ‘ohkkamlang gai’ (ออกกำลังกาย) - which is a bit of a mouth full to say.


Football in Thailand

Quite predictably, Football or ‘futbon’ (ฟุตบอล) is popular in Thailand. In fact, it is the most popular sport in the country. Just like in many other countries, there is a thriving football league with five levels, the top being ‘Thai League 1’. However, the locals also like to watch the big leagues like the premier league in England. While there may not be the big names you see in the likes of Europe, there are still many talented players to be seen in Thailand.

You can find football fields in many cities and in the countryside, some full size and some being just a small area under a bridge. You can find kids and people of all ages playing all throughout the day, seemingly not affected by the heat. If you enjoy the sport, you should definitely look into watching a game live.

Muay Thai

Muay Thai is a traditional Thai sport
Image source: MMA-Today

We cannot talk about sports in Thailand without mentioning ‘Muay Thai’ (มวยไทย). This is one of Thailand’s main cultural exports when it comes to sports. Also known as Thai kickboxing, Muay Thai is a combat sport that sees two fighters battle until one is knocked out or all rounds are played. They fight using a combination of their feet, knees, elbows, and fists to bring down their opponent.

There are plenty of gyms and arenas all around to learn and practice the sport. It shows up often on TV and there are live matches you can go to watch. You can even get a special student visa for learning Muay Thai. While a bit violent, you should at least give it a watch once. The rituals at the beginning can be an interesting insight into the culture.


Volleyball in Thailand

Volleyball or 'wolleybon' (วอลเลย์บอล) is populr to play, especially amongst women. Also, when there is a big volleyball match going on, you will find many people watching the game as you wander around. Especially during the Olympics, you will find that many Thai people will be filled with national pride due to the relative success of their volleyball team.

There are many teams that local people can join if they want to play. Whether at school or just with friends, people can get together and practice their volleyball skills on the court and replicate their national team's success.

Sepak Takraw

Takraw played in Thailand

Now this sport is one you have to see to believe. Also known as kick volleyball, or just ‘Takraw’ (ตะกร้อ) in Thai, these matches are renowned for their acrobatics. The name comes from the special ball that is used to play. The goal is to kick the ball over a volleyball net without letting it touch the ground. The rules are very similar to volleyball, except, of course, only legs can be used to touch the ball. This results in somersaults and bicycle kicks.

As with these other sports, you will likely find some people playing this where there are courts or on the beach. The sand is much softer to land on, making it more ideal for this game. If you want to play, you will need to focus on your balance and practice ball juggling with your feet. Be polite, and some players may take the time to teach you some basics.


Exercise In The Land Of Smiles

As you can see, this list includes a couple of well known and some more local examples of popular sports. They all make for a great option for friends looking to hang out into the evenings, after the heat of day has disappeared. For some, it may be surprising that football is the most popular sport in Thailand, but the likes of Muay Thai is also enjoyed frequently. It is commonly shown on TV, after all.

Looking for more Thai vocabulary? Try the Ling Thai app to practice your listening and learn new words. You will then be well on your way to mastering the language.

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