Soccer, also known as European football, is the most popular sport in Libya. Boys and young men enjoy informal matches on the streets of cities and villages, as well as in desert oases. Students play in organized teams, from elementary school until university. Libya's professional soccer teams are members of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Football Federation and of international and African soccer federations.

Horses have been an important part of Libyan culture for more than 3,000 years. Today, Libyans race horses or compete in chariot races. Fantasias, displays of special riding skills, are an Arab tradition. Camel racing is another popular sport. In the south, people race a unique breed of camel in a sport called mehari. In these races, two riders compete. The skill and fearlessness of the rider is more important than the speed of the camel.

Along the coast, many people enjoy water sports such as swimming, water skiing and scuba diving. Families often have picnics on the beaches and children play games with wooden paddles and balls. Libya's larger cities have tennis courts, bowling alleys and golf courses.

Games such as chess and dominoes are popular in Libya. In the desert, Bedouins play a traditional game in which a grid is drawn on the sand and the players take turns placing pebbles in the grid. The winner is the first to get three pebbles in a row. Isseren is a popular children's game. Players throw six split sticks into the air; they earn points for each stick that lands on the ground split side up.

After independence, Libya developed its sports teams so that they could compete internationally. The country first participated in the Olympics in 1968. However, Qaddafi did not send athletes to the 1972 Olympics. Libyans did not participate again in the Olympic games until 1992, when a small number of athletes represented the country in Barcelona. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, three Libyan athletes competed in marathon running, judo and tae kwon do.

   Did you know?
Chess has a long history in the Islamic world. Phrases used in chess come from the Arabic language. "Checkmate" comes from the words shah mat, which mean "The king is dead."