Is Football or Baseball the National Sport of Panama?

With its own rich outdoors, it’s inevitable for Panama to fall in love with sports. They have some of the best outdoors in the world, making it a great place to play around. Playing sports in Panama is one of the biggest pastimes of the locals, and they have a lot of them.

The national sports for Panama is Baseball, with a history going as far as the mid-19th century. Panama baseball is world-class, producing many famous US Major League Baseball players. Panama also has a growing love for football – what we know in the United States as soccer. They are also building a love for boxing and growing a crop of the best boxers in the world.

Are you a sports buff and looking to settling down in Panama? It’s great to familiarize yourself with Panama’s sports scene. It’s easy to fall in love with the passion that Panamanians hold for their sports.

Come share the passion of Panama’s sports scene.

What Is the National Sport of Panama?

Panama’s national sport is baseball. Many speculate that the country’s love for baseball stems from the time of the Canal’s construction. During the first few years of the 1900s, Teddy Roosevelt backed Panama’s bid for independence. When they succeeded in seceding from Colombia in 1903, their connection with the US strengthened.

The secession of Panama from Colombia resulted in two things, among others. First, Roosevelt pushed for the treaty that gives United States the right to build a canal. This canal, which we know today as the Panama Canal, connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. This was the same year as the first Baseball World Series in the US.

This canal was as wide as 10 miles (16 km), and anyone born in this canal area was a US citizen until 1979. After a year, the canal locks started construction. Much of modern onlookers point to this time as the period where Panamanians adopted baseball from the Yanks.

Many dubs this time as the debut of baseball in Panama. Some historians, however, have further accounts that push Panamanian baseball further back.

The True History of Baseball in Panama

According to Panamanian historian Ramon G. Pérez Medina, baseball goes as far back as 1855. In his book “Historia del Béisbol Panameño” (“The History of Panamanian Baseball“), he claims Americans from the Panama Railroad Company initiated a baseball game.

In this historic baseball game, the teams were American traders and affiliates of the railroad company. These teams played friendly matches between each other. As baseball was in its infancy, rules around this period were rudimentary at best.

Another well-known account of baseball in Panama comes from an article in the Panama Daily Star and Herald. In an article on January 9, 1883, they noted a baseball game played at the Chiriqui Plaza a couple of days before. This game was between the Panama Cricket and Baseball Club and a local team in Chiriqui.

As you can figure, the Panama Cricket and Baseball Club had a comfortable advantage. This team was a combination of people who worked in the French Canal. They likely developed their love for baseball during this time of their service.

This club was prominent in the development of baseball among this era of American construction. The Cricket and Baseball Club was so prominent that it was able to produce professional teams and superior players.

Professional Baseball in Panama

Panama is the home for many professional Major League Baseball (MLB) players. As of 2019, 10 active professional MLB players hail from Panama. They are:

PlayerTeam
Darío AgrazalPittsburg Pirates
Jaime BarríaLos Angeles Angels
Johan CamargoAtlanta Braves
Allen CórdobaSan Diego Padres
Randall DelgadoFree Agent
Paolo EspinoWashington Nationals
Javy GuerraSan Diego Padres
Ariel JuradoTexas Rangers
Rubén TejadaFree Agent
Edmundo SosaSt. Louis Cardinals

In the entire history of Major League Baseball, there are a total of 52 former players from Panama. Among them, the biggest legends that came from Panama are:

  • Rod Carew
  • Manny Sanguillen
  • Bruce Kastulo Chen
  • Mariano Rivera

Rod Carew is the first-ever Panamanian Hall of Famer in the MLB, with Mariano Rivera joining him in 2014. Rod Carew was a consistent contact hitter for the Minnesota Twins and California Angels in his career. Mariano Rivera, known as the “Sandman”, is one of the most dominant relievers in MLB history.

In Panama’s local scene, baseball permeates every inch of the country. Panama’s National Baseball Team is the 13th ranked baseball team in the world as of 2019. Their local professional baseball league is something to behold.

Panama has a Professional Baseball League (Beisbol Nacional) every March to April. 11 teams playing against each other, coming from different locales nationwide. They are:

  • Bocas del Toro
  • Chiriqui
  • Chiriqui Occidente
  • Colon
  • Cocle
  • Darién
  • Herrera
  • Los Santos
  • Panama Metro
  • Panama West
  • Veraguas

The 2019 Champion for the Panamanian Beisbol Nacional is Panama Metro. There is also a Panama Minor League with 11 teams too.

Football in Panama

Panama doesn’t only have baseball as its national pastime. There is a growing interest in football (soccer) in the local youth and young adults. This comes as an influence from their fellow countries around Central America.

The history of football in Panama goes as far back as 1862, but it did not bloom as much as baseball. This combines with their frustrations of failing to qualify in the FIFA World Cup for the last 10 qualifications. This view of football, however, is changing within the youth.

Panama qualified for the World Cup in 2018, with the Marea Roja’s Roman Torres leading the way. They bowed down, however, to Belgium and England within Group G in the World Cup.

FIFA World Cup record
YearRoundPositionGPWDLGFGA
Uruguay 1930Did Not Enter






Italy 1934






France 1938






Brazil 1950






Switzerland 1954






Sweden 1958






Chile 1962






England 1966






Mexico 1970






West Germany 1974






Argentina 1978Did Not Qualify






Spain 1982






Mexico 1986






Italy 1990






United States 1994






France 1998






South Korea Japan 2002






Germany 2006






South Africa 2010






Brazil 2014






Russia 2018Group stage32nd3003211
TotalGroup stage1/213003211

With Panama full of open fields, football comes naturally to the locals. The reverence is so high that it overtook boxing and basketball in local interest.

Some other famous Panamanian football players include Jaime Penedo of the LA Galaxy, Armando Dely Valdés, and Blas Pérez of FC Dallas.

Other famous sports in Panama include boxing, basketball, and cricket. There is also a growing interest in other sports like golf because of its growing number of resorts.

Boxing in Panama

Boxing is one of the fields in sports that Panamanians had a lot of success doing. The country enjoys the most victories in the international scene, producing top-class boxers. In history, Panama led most of Central America in the boxing scene.

The first Latin American boxing champion is Alfonso Teofilo Brown, known to everyone as Panama Al Brown. His known record is 129 wins, 19 losses, and 13 draws. Out of his 129 wins, 55 went by way of a knockout, putting him in a shortlist of people with more than 50 knockouts.

The most famous Panamanian boxer, however, is arguably Roberto Durán. Durán is a former champion of four weight classes:

  • Lightweight
  • Welterweight
  • Light middleweight
  • Middleweight

Durán is a legend in boxing, being one of the few people competing over five decades. Many consider him as the greatest lightweight boxer of all time. The Ring magazine even ranks Durán as the fifth greatest fighter of all time.

Other famous boxers hailing from Panama include Ismael Laguna, Guillermo Jones, and Hilario Zapata.

Basketball in Panama

Basketball is one of the smaller but more famous sports in Panama. The growing love for the sport comes from the widening influence of the NBA. Local teams are playing each other and also enjoying international acclaim.

Panama now has a professional basketball league named Liga Profesional de Baloncesto (LPB). As of 2019, they are in their 5th season.

Among their most prominent players is Rolando Blackman, who was a 4-time All-Star in the NBA. He played prominent minutes with the Dallas Mavericks from 1981 – 1992. He was the 9th pick of the 1981 draft, with Isiah Thomas and Danny Ainge coming from the same list.

Cricket in Panama

The introduction of Cricket to Panamanians came by the colonials of the West Indies. During the building of the Panama Canal, colonials taught many locals how to play the game. While it’s a famous game in Panama with a long pedigree, baseball superseded its popularity.

Even then, Panama is a member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) since 2002. Their National Team had two wins and two losses in the 2019 Central American Cricket Championship. They won against Costa Rica and Mexico but lost to MCC and Belize.

Conclusion

Sport is a part of daily living in Panama. If you are a sports lover, you will enjoy living in Panama with their intense passion for sports.

Baseball is the national sport of Panama, with its history going as far as the mid-19th century. Their love for baseball goes so far that they produce professional baseball players that compete in the MLB. There are also local professional baseball leagues in Panama that you can enjoy.

Football (soccer) is a growing love for Panamanians. With their increasing success in the sport, only time will tell until they find their groove. Panama’s open fields are great for people who want to get into football.

Some other sports enjoyed in Panama include boxing, basketball, and cricket. Among these sports, Panamanians enjoyed the most success in boxing. Greatest of all time boxers like Panama Al Brown and Roberto Durán are some of their best.

Are you a sports fan? Looking to settle down and learn more about Panama’s sports scene? We’re sure you’ll fall in love with their colorful sports scene.

Matt Romero

I’m Matthew Romero, one of the guys behind PanamaLifeInsider.com I am incredibly passionate about Panama, its beautiful territory, and all the incredible opportunities which offer to people coming here from all over the world both either visiting and settling. In this blog, I decided to share my passion with you!

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