Top 5 Study Destinations for Football Fanatics | Top Universities

Top 5 Study Destinations for Football Fanatics

By Laura Bridgestock

Updated June 13, 2018 Updated June 13, 2018

Call us opportunistic, but we couldn’t NOT publish a blog post to tie in with the opening of the World Cup. If you’ve been counting down the days both to the tournament 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.


Brazil Confederations Cup

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. In the latest QS Latin America University Rankings, it claimed 83 of the top 385 universities in the region.

Find out more about studying in Brazil >


England football fan

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.

Read about studying abroad in the UK >

South Africa

South Africa football

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). More top universities in South Africa can be found in the QS BRICS University Rankings, which also includes the 2018 World Cup host nation, Russia.

Find out more about studying in South Africa >

South Korea

South Korea football team

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.

The country has established itself among Asia’s leading higher education hubs, and in the latest QS Asia University Rankings, claims six of the top 20 spots.

Read more about studying in South Korea >


Spain football

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. Both feature among the world’s top 50 cities for international study, highlighted in the QS Best Student Cities ranking.

Learn more about studying in Spain >


Honorable mentions go to Russia, which is hosting the World Cup for the first time this year, and the defending champions of the last World Cup, Germany, which is also one of the world’s most popular and affordable study destinations.

Of course, since this is the world’s most popular sport we’re talking about, you’re likely to find friends to watch, play or post-match analyze with wherever you choose to study. Or maybe you’ll really prove your football-mad credentials by finding a university close to your favorite international team, or in the vicinity of an upcoming World Cup host. Just how committed are you?

Where will you be watching the World Cup this year? Which country do you think has the most (or most passionate) football fans? Share your World Cup experiences and predictions in the comments below.

This blog post was originally published in June 2014. It was updated in June 2018.

This article was originally published in June 2018 .

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Written by

The former editor of, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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