Twitter is #WhatsHappening and with sports making a comeback in 2021, conversations on Twitter only skyrocketed. We saw a whopping 3.7 billion Tweets about sports worldwide, surpassing 2020’s total of almost 2.7 billion as people chatted non-stop about sports. Closer to home, the SEA region garnered slightly over 95 million sports-related Tweets in 2021, a 40% increase from the year before. This is hardly surprising, as highly anticipated sporting events like #EURO2020, #Tokyo2020 and #Paralympics2020 returned with much fanfare. Whether fans watched from the bleachers or from their television screens at home, Twitter was abuzz with them celebrating goals and wins, and cheering on the #GOATs of the team they support.
In Southeast Asia, soccer fans have also been excitedly discussing match details and their favourite players’ performances on Twitter, which saw 41.7 million Tweets in the region around the much-loved sport, an increase of 32% from the previous year. Formula 1 fans have also been chatting non-stop since the season started in 2021, with Tweet volume exceeding 2020’s total. The intense rivalries and exhilarating races have no doubt contributed to the 121% year-on-year growth in F1 conversations in 2021.
The top sports topics in Southeast Asia were Soccer, the Olympics, the Premier League, Badminton, and Basketball and delving into the chatter from sports fans in the region, we’ve uncovered the events that created the loudest cheers on Twitter. From sensational player contracts being signed, to scintillating match finals, here is what Southeast Asian fans have been talking about.
Twitter and sports will always have a special and tight relationship. As events faced postponements and cancellations last year, sport fans on Twitter kept the passion and fervour alive by cheering, encouraging, and celebrating the wins together wherever they were. As competitions resumed this year, the built-up anticipation resulted in a global frenzy that transcended borders, with Twitter connecting the like-minded community to give them front row seats to all the action and a valuable avenue to participate in the excitement.
1. Football fever never ends
With the #EURO2020 postponed to 2021, football fans had plenty to look forward to this year - and it didn’t disappoint. A rollercoaster ride from start to end, fans stayed up to witness Denmark’s fairytale run to the semi-finals, collectively gasped when superstar Mbappé’s (@KMbappe) missed penalty sent France home early, and watched as England’s first major final in 55 years ended in defeat at Wembley to the Italians (@Azzurri_En). With so many unexpected twists and turns for fans to discuss, it’s no wonder that #EURO2020 was one of Southeast Asia’s top sport-related hashtags of the year.
Before the dust could even settle, football then dived straight into the @premierleague’s transfer season, which saw one of the most sensational deals in history. 12 years after his departure, Cristiano Ronaldo’s surprise return to his boyhood club sent football fans into a frenzy - making Cristiano Ronaldo (@Cristiano) and Manchester United (@ManUtd) the top handles that SEA fans interacted with. With all the excitement swirling in the football world, sport fans in the region generated almost 41.7 million football Tweets alone.
2. Chasing Olympic dreams in Tokyo
Despite facing numerous challenges, not least of all an unprecedented postponement of the games, @Tokyo2020 and @Olympics maintained pre-eminence in the sporting calendar, captivating people in the region throughout July. Naturally, after his historic gold medal and record-breaking performance at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Joseph Schooling’s return to the pool united Singaporeans on Twitter, who offered words of support and encouragement throughout his races.
#Tokyo2020 goes down in Philippine history because of the exemplary performance of the Filipino athletes, led by Weightlifting and the Philippines’ first olympic gold medalist, Hidilyn Diaz (@diaz_hidilyn) wherein a Tweet about her win became the top Retweeted related to Sports last year in the Philippines.
3. Adrenaline boosts from the racing track
Although the roar of F1 engines was sadly missing once again from the streets this year, people in SEA continued to keep a close eye on the track, with the #italiangp, #azerbaijangp and #monacogp among the top most talked about races.
The epic contest between Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) and Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) came to an end with the most dramatic race of the season taking place in Abu Dhabi. Despite securing an impressive lead for most of the race, Lewis Hamilton was overtaken in the very final lap after a controversial safety car restart procedure, paving the way for Max to claim his first ever Championship title. An extraordinary race to remember, F1 enthusiasts in SEA could ask for nothing more.
4. Sports for good
Sports is more than just about the competition, and with such passionate fans, sports teams have the power to do good. In what has become an annual activity by Real Betis Balompié (@RealBetis_en), fans shower the pitch with toys that are then donated to children less fortunate at Christmas. Sports giving back resonated with people in Thailand and this was the most Retweeted football-related Tweet in 2021.
Where the sports fans gather
Sports events happen all over the world with Twitter acting as the bridge to connect fans wherever they may be. With various features available on the service, fans can elevate and take their experiences to the next level. For instance, Twitter Topics helps fans easily find the conversations that matter most to them - be it a football team, basketball star, or Olympics gymnast.
A curated Twitter List is another useful tool for fans to make sure they never miss a Tweet from their favourite accounts.
The sporting community on Twitter is so diverse, there’s something for everyone to enjoy and share. So while stadiums, courts and arenas are slowly welcoming crowds once more; on Twitter, the cheers never end.