We all have our favorite sport, the one we are obsessed with, and for many of us, it is easy to assume that this one sport is the only one of its type. However, it might surprise you to learn that for every major sport, like football, there are a dozen fascinating variations, like Futsal or Swamp football.
In this article, we’ll be giving you seven new variations of your favorite sports to explore and enjoy.
Football came to us from ancient China originally, in the form of the game of Cuju and was filtered down through the Greek game of Episkyros and the Roman ball game of Harpastum.
A more recognizable form of the game happened in medieval Europe, especially England, where two villages would compete on Shrovetide to attempt to run an inflated animal’s bladder through to the opposing team’s church.
The first set of official football rules, known as the Cambridge rules, appeared in 1848, and the rest is history. FIFA was established in 1904 to act as the governing body for the sport and the first World Cup was staged in 1930. It’s now the pinnacle of the sport, with sportsbooks already running markets on the 2026 World Cup. According to DraftKings, France (+500) are the current favorites to win the Jules Rimet trophy. This fantasy sports brand has recently moved into sports betting, with the DraftKings Sportsbook promo code open for use on soccer markets like the 2026 World Cup futures odds.
Since the establishment of soccer, there’s been a myriad of interesting variants on this global sport.
Futsal gets its name from the Portuguese futebol de sal, meaning lounge football and is the only FIFA-approved five-a-side indoor game. Futsal is played by two teams of five players with one goalkeeper.
Other than the smaller teams, the game differs from standard football in that there are unlimited substitutions, the game is played on a hard surface, and the ball used is smaller and harder than a normal football. The smaller space and small teams make Futsal a game of quick passing and skilful ball control.
Swamp Football originates in Finland where it is called Suopotkupallo. The game originated as an endurance exercise for Finnish soldiers and athletes because of the physically demanding conditions and the difficulty of even moving in a swamp. The game was the brainchild of the wonderfully named “Swamp Baron” Jyrki Väänänen.
While swamp football might seem like a very niche sport, it has generated quite the following. There are currently around 300 swamp football teams, an officially recognized global body, and tournaments held all over the world in cities like Edinburgh, Beijing, Istanbul, and Mumbai. At a time when sport is becoming increasingly sanitized and image-conscious, swamp football is going entirely the opposite way.
Tennis was most probably invented in 12th century northern France as the jeu de paume, where the hand was used instead of a racquet. In the 1850s it was combined with the Basque ball game pelota to become similar to the game we know today.
There are a huge range of variety racquet sports, such as badminton and squash, that are very well known but there are still some lesser-known games to be discovered.
Jai Alai was developed in Spain, the south west of France and Latin American countries and is also a variant of Basque pelota.
Jai Alai is played inside on a hard court with walls on the front, back and left. This court is divided up by 14 parallel lines that run horizontally across the court. In essence, the game is like squash but the use of the xistera, or whicker ball thrower, makes it a much more fast-paced game that resembles a cross between squash and lacrosse.
Matkot is a beach paddle game that originated in Israel. The aim of the game is to use two wooden racquets (matka) to hit a rubber squash-sized ball between two players for the maximum amount of time without dropping it.
Primarily a beach game, Matkot has also found fans in South America, where is more commonly called frescoball. There is a yearly national championship that is held in Tel Aviv.
Most people are aware of the differences, to one extent or another, between Rugby League and Rugby Union. However, Rugby named after the English school where it started has also given us some very unusual variants to consider.
Most people are aware of American football, but did you know there is a Canadian version as well?
The games are mostly similar, with some minor changes in the next rules, but the major differences are that the Canadian football pitches are larger, the teams are larger, and there are only three downs.
Canadian football even has its own version of the Super Bowl, called the Gray Cup, which is contested between the winners of the CFL’s East and West Divisional playoffs and is one of Canadian television’s largest annual sporting events. Around 4 million Canadians tune in every year to watch the game, eat poutine and discuss the likelihood of their favorite team becoming the winners of the Gray Cup.
Probably the oddest sport on this list, at the very least competing with swamp football for the top spot, Underwater Rugby was originally invented by German diving clubs in the 1980s. The aim of the game is to place a salt-water-filled ball into the opposing team’s bucket 3.5 to 5 meters down in a salt water-filled pool.
The game has become surprisingly popular, with a regulating body in the form of the Confédération Mondiale des Activités Subaquatiques (CMAS) Underwater Rugby Commission and a long-running world championship that had been being contested since the 1980s.
An odd combination of rugby and football, Gaelic football is played by two teams of 15 players on a large rectangular grass pitch. The aim of the game is to kick or punch the ball into the other team’s goal or between the two upright posts above the goals.
Players can move the ball, which is similar to a volleyball, by carrying it, bouncing it, kicking it, hand-passing, and “soloing” it, which involves dropping it and then kicking it back up into their own hands.
The sport is overseen by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and is one of the few strictly amateur sports in the world, as the players, coaches, and managers are prohibited from receiving any payment.
There are three major Gaelic football competitions each year, the National Football League, the All-Ireland Senior Championship, and the All-Ireland Club Championship.
Outside of Ireland, the sport is played in the U.S, especially in cities like New York that were part of the Irish diaspora, and in Australia, where certain similarities between Gaelic football and Aussie Rules football mean that a hybrid game, called International Rules football, is played between Irish and Australian clubs in a series of test matches.
New Sports to Love
So, there you have it, seven new sports for you to discover, get to know, and fall in love with. From the fast-paced indoor games of Jai Alai and Futsal to the beautiful oddness of Swamp Football or Underwater Rugby. It’s time to get stuck in!
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