Discover the sport most practiced by the Malagasy (no, it’s not football)

02/08/2018. It must be said, the Malagasy have a strong affinity with sport. At the same time, with a young population (average age: 19.4 years in 2015 according to the INSTAT), it is not surprising to see passions flare up at each President’s Cup or Madagascar International Rally, not to mention the games that have been hosted over the years (CJSOI, Island Games, Afrobasket, etc.). Sport is also part of the Malagasy people’s leisure time.

So this time, Stileex chose to look at the Malagasy people’s relationship with sport, which we did through a field survey. The study, the results of which we are sharing with you today, was carried out among 1,289 people interviewed in the streets of Antananarivo.

More than half of the Malagasy do sport regularly.

Let’s start by defining exactly what we mean by “regularly”. It’s actually quite simple. At Stileex, a magazine mainly populated by geeks and nerds (isn’t it Simon? :-)), to practice a sport regularly is at least once a week.

With this in mind, our survey shows that 60% of those surveyed practice at least one sport on a regular basis. And we are not even talking about a single sport since if 73% of them actually practice only one per week, 20% do two (!!), 5% do three (!!!) and 2% do four (!!!!).

The most popular sports in Madagascar

When the time comes to take an interest in the most popular sports among Malagasy people, we come across a surprise: it’s not football!

With 33% of the votes, it is the running race that wins, by a few points, the first place. We are not talking about athletics here, but rather amateur running, which is practiced on dikes and other flat bypasses :P

Football comes second only to running, with 27% of those surveyed doing so at least once a week. Next comes basketball, which attracted 23%.

Running, football and basketball form a triumvirate, accounting for 83% of the vote. In fourth place, Zumba attracts “only” 9% of the people, followed by weight training (7%) and swimming (6%).

Finally, it also emerges that among 18 to 35 year olds, the most popular sports are football (30%), basketball (28%), running (24%) and Zumba (10%).

Playing sports, not really a budget?

49% of the sportsmen and women surveyed said they spend nothing on their sports. In other words, they just put on their sneakers and ride young.

For the others, they are 25% to spend 1 to 20,000 Ar per month to make and 22% to spend 20,001 to 60,000 Ar. In absolute terms, only 4% spend more than 60,000 Ar per month.

The main reasons for not playing sports

We therefore have 40% of the interviewees who do not do sport regularly and, to justify this state of affairs, it is the age-old excuse “I don’t have the time” which is the most evoked (71%).

Others are, let’s say, more frank and simply say they don’t want to (13%), while still others have a health concern that prevents them from exercising (5%). Finally, only 2% say they have no budget to devote to sport.

Let’s end this survey on Malagasy people and sport on a funny fact: among all those who admitted not practising sport regularly, they are an overwhelming majority to think that sport is beneficial for health (92%)!

The place of sport in Madagascar

Sport is one of the means favoured by the state to educate the Malagasy youth, as the name of the ministry simply shows: the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Sporting activities in the country are framed by a system of federations and leagues. Afterwards, it is difficult to have the exact figures, but Madagascar currently has about forty sports federations, among which the “powerful” football, judo or basketball federations rub shoulders with those of free flight, go games or… skiing!

Mahamasina City Hall, Antananarivo
Mahamasina City Hall, Antananarivo

Here is a list, as exhaustive as possible, of Malagasy sports federations with their contacts (when there are any):

Malagasy Federation of Athletics, Bodybuilding and Body-buildingFacebook
Malagasy Fencing FederationNA
Malagasy Weightlifting FederationNA
Malagasy Badminton FederationEmail
Malagasy Basketball FederationEmail 1 / Email 2 / Facebook
Malagasy Billiards FederationFacebook
Malagasy Olympic Boxing FederationFacebook
Malagasy Thai Boxing Federation (muay-thai)NA
Malagasy Cycling FederationEmail
Malagasy Dance FederationFacebook
Malagasy Football FederationSite web
Malagasy Golf FederationEmail
Malagasy Handball FederationEmail / Facebook
Malagasy Handisport Federation (Malagasy Paralympic Committee)Email
Malagasy Federation of the Malagasy Game of GoEmail
Malagasy Jujitsu FederationNA
Malagasy Judo FederationSite web
Malagasy Karate FederationEmail
Malagasy Kendo Federation and Associated DisciplinesNA
Malagasy Kickboxing FederationFacebook
Malagasy Kung-Fu Wisa FederationFacebook
Malagasy Wrestling FederationEmail
Malagasy Federation of Malagasy Duathlon and TriathlonNA
Malagasy Motorcycle FederationNA
Malagasy Swimming FederationFacebook
Malagasy Petanque FederationEmail / Facebook
Malagasy Scuba Diving FederationNA
Malagasy Rugby FederationFacebook
Malagasy Federation of French savate-boxingNA
Malagasy Ski FederationEmail
Malagasy Motor Sports FederationFacebook
Malagasy Taekwondo Federation WTFFacebook
Malagasy Tennis FederationEmail / Facebook
Malagasy Table Tennis FederationEmail / Facebook
Malagasy Archery FederationEmail / Facebook
Malagasy Federation of Sailing, Rowing, Canoeing and SurfingNA
Malagasy Federation of Free FlightNA
Malagasy Volleyball FederationEmail 1 / Email 2 / Facebook
Malagasy Federation of Equestrian SportsEmail / Facebook
Madagascan Chess FederationSite web

The most active federations are the most popular, namely those of round and orange ball, as well as those of tennis, boxing and other combat sports. However, although they do organize regular competitions (inter-company, etc.), it is above all the infighting that shakes them up from time to time that makes the headlines in the daily papers.

As recently as February 2018, preparations for the FMF (Malagasy Football Federation) presidential election caused a lot of ink to flow between an interim president who vehemently wished to stay in his place, and a challenger, former president of the FMKB-DA (Malagasy Kickboxing and Associated Disciplines Federation) who was willing to take his place. Concern: the challenger is the colt of Mr. Ahmad Ahmad, former president of the FMF, who had himself appointed the current interim president (infighting we tell you).

Second concern: Mr Ahmad Ahmad is none other than the big boss of CAF (Confederation of African Football) who overthrew the undisputed Issa Hayatou in 2017. Faced with the refusal of his former protégé to accept the candidacy of his new foal, he did not hesitate to refer the matter to FIFA (International Football Federation) and programmed with it the replacement of the current executive committee with a view to holding elections.

Mr. Ahmad Ahmad, first Malagasy president of CAF
Mr. Ahmad Ahmad, first Malagasy president of CAF

In short, there are often telenovelas of this kind in almost all major federations: the Malagasy Tae Kwon Do Federation WTF, the Malagasy Olympic Boxing Federation, all entertain by their power struggle and all kinds of shenanigans. In itself, this would make you smile, except that it penalizes the sport with competitions that are no longer held or with practitioners discredited by the actions of their leaders.

These sports where the Malagasy excel

When you look at the sports in which the Malagasy are the best, there is reason to wonder why, but oh why, football is so popular in the country?!

As a reminder, football is the 2nd most popular sport after running, and is first among 18 to 35 year olds. Surprising, especially considering that the last victory of a national team in a football competition, even if only regional, was 3 chandeliers ago:

  • Cosafa Cup: the Barea of Madagascar finish 4th in the 2018 edition, beaten in the semi-finals by Zambia and by Lesotho in the small final. In 2015, they were able to reach 3rd place, their best ranking in this competition.
  • Jeux des Îles: 4th place in the last Games (2015), beaten by Mauritians who grab 3rd place. On the other hand, we have already won the football competition for these games twice: in 1990, against Mauritius (5-1), and in 1993, against Reunion (1-0).
  • CAN: The Madagascans have never participated in the African Cup of Nations, never getting past the stage of the preliminary rounds.
  • World Cup : :-)

Otherwise, yes, our junior footballers won gold at the 2016 CSJOI, but I did say “national team”! :-P

The last edition of the CSJOI, in 2016, took place in Madagascar.
The last edition of the CSJOI, in 2016, took place in Madagascar.

For the record, Madagascar is 106th in the FIFA rankings (up 24 points), with the best place ever achieved being 89th and the worst, 158th.

So no, if you want to see Madagascar excel in any sport, it’s not football you have to look at. Towards basketball, at the limit, a sport that is as popular as football among young people (second only to soccer) and for which many are gifted. But where we really stand out is when it comes to hitting people or titillating the piggy bank.


Champion seed, we got it. Justin Razafy, the youngest member of the Malagasy delegation to the 2014 WAKO (World Association of Kickboxing Organizations) World Championships, was 15 years old when he won the title of World Junior Kick-Light Champion in the under 47 kg category. Faratiana Razanabahoaka is her female counterpart, crowned World Champion in the under 52 kg category at 17 years old.

And how can we talk about Malagasy kickboxing without mentioning Séverin Mamonjisoa, World Pro Kickboxing Freestyle Low Kick Champion, title won in December 2015 in Russia, in the middle of winter.

An IKSA World Champion belt identical to the one won by Séverin Mamonjisoa
An IKSA World Champion belt identical to the one won by Séverin Mamonjisoa


Here, we are touching heavy stuff with a double World Champion: Parfait Rakotonindriana. He won his first title in 1997, making him the first Madagascan world champion. Doing it again in 1999, he confirmed his status as a technician and a confirmed athlete, clearing history by becoming this time the first Malagasy to be double World Champion. Today, he is busy popularising his art, self defence techniques as well as diamanga, the Malagasy fighting sport.

Parfait Rakotonindriana, double World Champion in Savate in 1997 and 1999
Parfait Rakotonindriana, double World Champion in Savate in 1997 and 1999

At the side of this veteran is Faratiana Razanabahoaka who, in 2011 and at the age of 14, won the title of World Champion in the cadet savate category. This means that at the age of 17, at the end of the 2014 WAKO World Championships, she had just won her second World Champion title. Hats off to her.

Thai Boxing and Chinese Boxing

In 2006, Jean Stéphane Andriantefy won his title of World Muay Thai Champion in the under 57 kg category. It was in Bankgok and he was 26 years old.

Then there is, stronger than Parfait Rakotonindriana, Jean Christian Randriamalaza, eight times (!!) World Champion of Chinese boxing Lei Tai. Now 40 years old, he was number one in his discipline in 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017. With that, no need for him to come back to defend his title this year: he now has it for life.


Provence, Marseilles, with the boulodrome just a stone’s throw from the church square, forget all that. The world champions of pétanque are Malagasy and, damn it, that feels good.

That goes back to 2016. For this edition (the 47th), the World Petanque Championship was played in Antananarivo. It was past 10 pm when all the Malagasy staff arrived in a minibus at full speed on Analakely, all shouting to who better to celebrate the victory. That night, Tita, Christian, Hery and Lova had just won gold, beating the Beninese (silver), France and Belgium (both bronze).

As happiness never comes alone, it was, one year later, the turn of the juniors to bring the Malagasy pétanque to the naked by becoming World Junior Pétanque Champions after beating France in the final. A pride that confirms the Madagascan know-how in terms of boules (pétanque eh).

Otherwise, in individual competition, there are also many champions between Hanta Francine Randriambahiny and Carlos Sylvain Rakotoarivelo, both World Champions in marksmanship, one in 2011 and the other in 2007. And I’m sure I’m forgetting some more.

Madagascar is a land of pétanque champions
Madagascar is a land of pétanque champions

What about other sports?

If it is funny to see that our sportsmen shine especially in unpopular sports (only 10% of Malagasy people questioned in our survey practice a combat sport, 0.85% for petanque …), it would not be fair to say that only these sports are favorable to us.

Our junior rugbymen have already been African Junior Rugby Champions, that was in 2012. They honoured their elder brothers, the Makis, who themselves became African Champions the same year by beating Namibia in front of 40,000 spectators.

The logo (2018) of Rugby Africa, formerly Confederation of African Rugby
The logo (2018) of Rugby Africa, formerly Confederation of African Rugby

In bulk, our volleyball, handball and basketball teams have already been Indian Ocean champions, as have our disabled athletes. As for our judo, football, table tennis and athletics selections, they have won gold medals at the last and 10th CJSOI Games (2016). Moreover, on this edition, the country with the most titles was Madagascar: our athletes managed to collect 35 medals, including 18 gold!

To conclude, I hope you enjoyed this escape to the land of Malagasy sport. For my part, it was surprising and above all gratifying to see that not only are our technicians as capable as elsewhere, but also, and this I haven’t said yet, that the state does indeed reward the best of them (bonuses and honorary titles).

However, if you want to listen to the advice of a guy whose only sport practiced is button hammering on a joystick, stop playing football guys and start kickboxing! :-P

And you, do you know any deserving Malagasy athletes?

Appendix: the modus operandi of the survey on Malagasy people and sport 2018

The study on Malagasy people and sport 2018 was carried out on a panel of 1,289 people of Malagasy nationality met in the streets. Here are the main characteristics:

  • Kind:
    • 58.96% are women
    • 41.04% are men
  • Age groups:
    • 30.33% are between 18 and 25 years old
    • 32.12% are between 26 and 35 years old
    • 21.72% are between 36 and 45 years old
    • 8.53% are between 46 and 55 years old
    • 4.97% are between 56 and 65 years old
    • 2.33% are over 65
  • Socio-professional categories:
    • 22.34% belong to the category Craftsmen and traders
    • 20.95% belong to the Students category
    • 13.27% belong to the liberal professions category
    • 12.57% belong to the Employees category
    • 10.40% belong to the Intermediate Professions category (teachers, hospital medical staff, etc.)
    • 7.21% belong to the category Other people without professional activity (soldiers, clergymen, non-working spouses, etc.)
    • 4.97% belong to the Workers category
    • 4.97% belong to the category Managers, higher intellectual professions and entrepreneurs
    • 2.64% belong to the Retired category
    • 0.70% belongs to the Farmer Operators category


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