Two-thirds of Flemings feel Belgian pride during World Cup


A study by VUB examined feelings of national pride among citizens during major sporting events, and found football inspired the strongest feelings

Shared moments

Hearing the Belgian national anthem at sporting events such as the World Cup and the Olympics creates a feeling of national pride for 64% of Flemish people and 70% of Walloons, according to research from the Free University of Brussels (VUB).

Winning a tournament or a medal works even better, with 80% of Flemings reporting patriotic feelings when Belgian competitors come out on top, compared to 73% of Walloons. However, half of the people involved in the research said they felt a greater attachment to athletes from their own linguistic community. 

In any other country, the question of sporting patriotism would not be so interesting but in Belgium, sport is one of the few areas of public life not divided along linguistic lines. Flemish and francophone athletes compete side by side at elite sporting events, and the elusive Belgian national identity comes into play.

Social impact of sport and culture

The research, carried out by VUB’s Sport and Society Research Group, asked 1,600 Belgians about the social impact of top sporting events. As well as questions about how proud they feel, people were asked about the perceived importance of these elite sporting events. 

The results, the researchers say, reflect the recent successes of the Belgian national football team and the performance of Belgian athletes at the Olympics in 2016.

Some 62% of all respondents said they were proud or very proud of Belgian sporting achievements, while 65% thought sporting achievement was important or very important. This ranks sport above Belgian achievements in art and literature, areas where linguistic identity is very strong, but below having a strong economy and success in science and technology.

Breaking down the sports, it was found that football was considered the most important area in which to be successful, singled out by 22% of Belgians. Then come athletics (11%), tennis (8%), road cycling (8%) and motorsport (4%).

Photo: Luc Claessen/Belga