If you’ve been counting down the days and to the moment when you can set off on your study abroad adventure, then these are the study destinations for you – all countries which combine football-mad populations with a good selection of universities.
Football is firmly ingrained as a national passion in Brazil, and that is certainly not about to change. Brazilians love football more than they love the internet; during the 2010 World Cup, Google conducted an experiment to see which country was too glued to the game to browse the net – Brazilians showed the biggest difference, with searches plummeting to half normal levels during matches.
As well as being home to a particularly high percentage of football fanatics, Brazil also dominates the league table for universities within Latin America.
Football has long been deeply embedded in the UK’s national culture and identity, and perhaps particularly so in England. A 2010 international survey conducted by Heineken named English fans the most “football mad”, with English respondents spending an average of two hours and 22 minutes per week watching football, and an additional three hours and 21 minutes discussing it.
English football teams are also some of the most internationally famed. Manchester United has been named the world’s most popular football team with a whopping 659 million supporters as of 2012. And in a list of the world’s most followed football squads on social media, five of the top 10 spots went to English teams, with Manchester United in third place, followed by Chelsea (fourth), Arsenal (fifth), Liverpool (eighth) and Manchester City (10th).
Of course, the UK is also highly reputed worldwide for its universities, coming second only to the US both in terms of its presence in the international rankings tables and the number of international students it enrolls each year.
Next up is South Africa, host of the 2010 World Cup. Now well established as the nation’s most played and followed sport, football was introduced to South Africa via colonialism. It went on to play a symbolic role in the struggle to end racial segregation; the country’s first non-segregated football association, formed in 1991, was a key landmark in the abolition of apartheid.
As well as being the first African country to host the World Cup, South Africa is also home to the continent’s three highest-ranked universities, led by the University of Cape Town (currently joint 200th in the world).
In Asia, South Korea has to take the region’s crown for the most football-mad population, while also being home to many of Asia’s leading universities. In fact, it would be difficult to say whether South Koreans take football or education more seriously.
South Korea jointly hosted the 2002 World Cup with Japan, the only time the event has been held in Asia, with the South Korean national team narrowly missing out on third place. Slightly confusingly, the South Korean side has the same nickname as the UK’s Manchester United – both are known as the “Red Devils”. South Korean football fanatics also refer to themselves as red devils, and their mascot is Chiwoo Cheonwang, a legendary historical figure who represents victory and guardianship in Korean folklore.
Western Europe is full of football-crazy populations, so it was a tough call on which country to include in this list. Germany, Italy and France all boast a mixture of football fanatics and strong universities. In the end though, we chose Spain, winners of the 2010 World Cup.
According to the list mentioned above, Spain’s Barcelona and Real Madrid are the world’s two most-followed football teams on social media. Barcelona’s fans are also known for a dedication that continues well beyond clicking on a “like” button, frequently named among the most devoted supporters in the world. So, if you study here, you’ll not only be surrounded by football fanatics, but have a large online community of them to join afterwards.
As well as claiming the two most famous Spanish football teams, Barcelona and Madrid are also between them home to the country’s five highest-ranked universities.