Sport in Luxembourg
Unlike in most countries in Europe, sports in Luxembourg are not concentrated upon a particular national sport, but encompasses a number of sports, both team and individual. Despite the lack of a central sporting focus, over 100,000 people in Luxembourg, which has a total population of only 460,000, are licensed members of one sports federation or another.
There are many athletics clubs in Luxembourg representing most of the country's main towns. The largest club is CAL Spora Luxembourg, with a membership of 400 members. At an organisational level, the same clubs are often affiliated to both the Luxembourg Athletics Federation (FLA) and the Luxembourg Triathlon Federation, the governing bodies for athletics and triathlon, respectively.
Luxembourg's sole Olympic gold medalist was an athlete. Josy Barthel won the men's 1500 metres at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. Another Luxembourgish athlete, Michel Théato, won the marathon at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris, but, as his nationality was only proven to be Luxembourgish after his death, his medal is credited to France, where he lived, instead.
Cycling is the sport in which Luxembourg has had most success at a professional level, and is one of the main participatory sports amongst the general population. The country's flat terrain lends itself to the sport, with the Tour de Luxembourg being run around the country on an annual basis as a prelude to the Tour de France.
Famous Luxembourgish cyclists of the past include Nicolas Frantz, Charly Gaul, François Faber and Benoît Joachim of whom the first three won the Tour de France (Frantz having done so twice). Altogether, Luxembourgish cyclists have won the Tour de France four times, ranking Luxembourg seventh overall. Currently, there are five Luxembourgish cyclists on the UCI ProTour, who are Laurent Didier, Bob Jungels, Ben Gastauer, Fränk Schleck, and Andy Schleck.
Tennis is a popular sport, as it is across western Europe. There are 53 tennis clubs in the country, the oldest of which (TC Diekirch) was founded in 1902. The governing body is the Luxembourg Tennis Federation. The Fortis Championships Luxembourg are held in Luxembourg each year, and are ranked as a Tier III tournament on the WTA Tour.
Luxembourgers have had little success in professional tennis. Gilles Müller, considered the best men's player the country has ever produced, reached the quarter-finals of the 2008 U.S. Open, but has never been able to break into the world top fifty. Women's players that have reached the top fifty include Anne Kremer (18th) and Claudine Schaul (41st). The Luxembourg Davis Cup team competes in Group II. The Luxembourg Fed Cup team competes in Group I.
Cricket is a minority sport in Luxembourg, played predominantly within the British expatriate community located in and around Luxembourg City; very few native Luxembourgers play the sport. The game's governing body is the Luxembourg Cricket Federation, whose primary purpose is to promote the game to the non-British population.
The dominant club is the Optimists Cricket Club, which plays in the Belgian league, which it has won on three occasions. The Optimists serve as an auxiliary governing body to the LCF, organising the small domestic Luxembourgish league. The club fields multiple subsidiary teams in the domestic league, but the focus is on the Belgian league.
The sport's domestic received a boost from the patronage of Pierre Werner, former Prime Minister of Luxembourg, who served as President of the OCC and after whom the main cricket ground in Luxembourg is named the Pierre Werner Cricket Ground in Walferdange.
Football is the most popular sport in Luxembourg. The top-flight National Division is the premier domestic sports league in the country. Luxembourg was amongst the first countries in the world to be introduced to football, with the National Division being established in 1913, and the national team playing its first match in 1911.
The game is more popular in the south of the country, having developed earliest in the industrial Red Lands and Luxembourg City. Only once has the National Division been won by a team not from the south of the country. Historically, Jeunesse Esch has been the most successful domestic club, having won the National Division on 27 occasions (out of a total of 93). Since 2000, the league has been dominated by F91 Dudelange, which has won the league on six of the past eight occasions.
The national team, nicknamed d'Léiwen ('The Lions'), is one of the weakest in the world, having not ranked above 150th in the world since 2002. The team achieved moderate success in the 1964 European Championship, when the side beat the Netherlands and almost progressed to the semi-finals. The most famous current Luxembourgish footballer is Jeff Strasser, who has made a successful career in the French and German leagues. Luxembourg's most famous past players include Louis Pilot and Guy Hellers, both of whom also coached the national team after ending their playing careers.
Luxembourg made its first appearance at the Summer Olympic Games in 1900, and the Grand Duchy has been represented as a total twenty-one Games, including every one since 1936. However, despite the country's long tradition of competing at the Summer Olympics, Luxembourg has won only two medals in all events:
- Joseph Alzin won the silver medal in the 82.5 kg+ 3 events weightlifting at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp.
- Josy Barthel won the gold medal in the 1500 m at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki.
In addition, Luxembourger Michel Théato won the gold medal in the marathon at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris. However, at the time, it was assumed that Théato was French, so the medal is officially credited to France.
At the Winter Olympic Games, Luxembourg has been less active. Despite competing at the second Winter Olympics, in 1928, the country has taken part in only seven in total. They have won two medals, both by Austria-born Marc Girardelli, an eleven-time world champion alpine skier, who won silver in the Super G and Giant Slalom at the 1992 Winter Olympics.
The largest sports venue in the country is d'Coque, an indoor arena in Kirchberg, north-eastern Luxembourg City, which has a capacity of 8,300. The arena is used for basketball, handball, gymnastics, and volleyball, including the final of the 2007 Women's European Volleyball Championship. The largest, national stadium is the Stade Josy Barthel, in western Luxembourg City; named after the country's only official Olympic gold medallist, the stadium has a capacity of 8,054.
|Ten largest sports venues in Luxembourg|
|d'Coque||Luxembourg City||8,300||Basketball, handball, gymnastics, volleyball|
|Stade Josy Barthel||Luxembourg City||8,054||Football, athletics|
|Stade du Thillenberg||Differdange||7,150||Football|
|Stade Achille Hammerel||Luxembourg City||5,814||Football|
|Stade de la Frontière||Esch-sur-Alzette||5,400||Football|
|Stade rue Henri Dunant||Luxembourg City||4,830||Football|
|Stade Jos Nosbaum||Dudelange||4,650||Football|
|Op Flohr Stadion||Grevenmacher||4,000||Football|
|Stade Camille Polfer||Luxembourg City||3,500||Football|
- "Luxembourg". Council of Europe. 2003. Retrieved 2006-11-25.[dead link]
- Lanzenberg, Gregory (1 September 2008). "Luxembourg's best ever: Muller lights up US Open as he battles through to last 16". Sportingo. Retrieved 2008-09-04.