Traditional sports in Nigeria

Traditional Nigerian sports have the potency to unite the nation and single out new local talent. Find out more about their kinds.

There are lots of prominent people in Nigeria, as this country has many talents. Sport has not become an exception. There are plenty of wonderful athletes, originated from Nigeria. Great number of them takes part in world sports events. However, there exist traditional sports in Nigeria as well. We will observe the most interesting types and their historical development.

Traditional sports in nigeria

Traditional sports in Nigeria are strongly connected with the culture and traditions of this country. Most of them take place during various festivals and holidays. They might be called tribal ones. Of course, modern Western kinds of sport have a lot of fans and participants as well.

Popular sports activities

Before we start observing particular African sports, it is essential to consider all the possible types, which have become widespread in Nigeria. The most common of them are:

  1. Football. It is probably the most famous sport in the country. Nigerian team regularly takes part in the competitions for international titles. Besides, many athletes have world recognition for their achievements. Nigerian national team, known as the Super Eagles, is thought to be the finest in Africa. According to FIFA World Rankings, it is the fifth best team in Confederation of African Football. Their first match took place in 1949. They played against Sierra Leone and won 2:0. As for the greatest victory, it was the game against Benin. They won 16:1.
    Football in nigeria
  2. Basketball. This is another popular sport. There are both men’s and women’s teams. Senior men's national team has participated in the FIBA Africa Championship games 15 times. They have got 3 silver and 3 bronze medals. Moreover, they have participated in FIBA World Cup for two times. The team mostly consists of Nigerian-American players. They have also taken part in All-Africa Games, where they have received several medals in Commonwealth Games of 2006.
    Basketball in nigeria
  3. Boxing. It is one more famous type of activity. There are even several traditional sports, based on it. There are lots of gifted young boxers in Nigeria, who are eager to become worldwide known. However, most of them do not have all the necessary tools and opportunities for training. Nevertheless, it is still very prominent as one of local sports.
    Boxing in nigeria
  4. Running. You have possibly heard that Africans tend to be much better athletes than Western people. That is the reason why there are so many talented runners among the Nigerians. Nowadays great quantity of young people takes part in this type of sport. The majority of them actually hope to make it to the Olympics. And we should say, they have all chances for that.
    Running in nigeria
  5. Dancing. During the past several years, various dances have become really popular in Nigeria. Both younger and elder generations take part in different competitions. There might be African traditional dances, ballroom ones, or any other possible types. The contests are usually organized for particular participants, such as students, families, salsa dancers, and so on.
    Dancing in nigeria

These are the most popular sports, which Nigeria is prominent at. National teams are really strong and try to win good reputation in the world and get some kind of promotion in their sports career.

READ ALSO:  How far up is NIgeria in FIFA rankings?

Traditional Nigerian sport

Now let’s look at the most interesting traditional sport activities in Nigeria. Consider the following list:

  1. Dambe. It is a kind of traditional boxing. As it has been said before, there are lots of variations of it in Nigeria. This very kind is widespread in the northern part of the country, for instance, in the city of Sokoto. The players here usually have one of their fists wrapped into a bandage, while the other fist remains free. As you may guess, this is a combative sport. It takes place in sand-filled circle. In the case, if one of the participants steps out of it, he will be immediately disqualified. This activity is so famous, that there even exists Kogi State Traditional Wrestling (Dambe) Association. Gambo Agbem is their head coach. His aim is to make this traditional sport compulsory during any National Sports Festival. To his mind, it has faced great competition since the introduction of Western sport in Nigeria. He also says that this is a heritage of the country and it should be preserved as any other cultural issue.
    Traditional Nigerian sport Dambe.
  2. Kokawa. It is known as traditional wrestling. It has its roots in the past, when a man, who has wanted to marry a beautiful woman, must have passed through this competition. Only the strongest one could have the right to get a wife. Nowadays, this is just a part of a tradition, which takes place during the festivals. The participants wrestle in the sand in order to get honors. The circle is six meters in diameter, and its borders must not be stepped out. There are various weight categories – from 40 to 100 kilograms. There are usually three rounds of the fighting. Besides, there is a hope for the future of modern wrestling in Nigeria, thanks to pioneers such as Sokarti Soberekon, Michael Okpala, Late Michael Bamidele, Maman Zaria, Ben LionHeart, and Power Uti.
    Traditional Nigerian sport Kokawa.
  3. Abula. This thing is very close to something we call volleyball. There are eight players in each team – four from every side. All the rest of the team members are waiting on a bench to substitute their teammates. However, there is a distinction between this game and volleyball. While in the latest it is necessary to use hands to hit the ball, in the case of Abula, you will require a wooden bat. The team with the highest points wins the game.
    Traditional Nigerian sport Abula.
  4. Ayo. This is a Yoruba board game. However, it has managed to become popular through the whole country and far beyond it. Many African countries have adopted this game. It is usually played by two dexterous people, who try to get more seeds. There are twelve holes in the game (six ones on each of the sides). Every hole in its turn contains four seeds. The size of the board is 0.8m to 1.2m. The one, who gets more seeds than the opponent does, wins. Anticlockwise format is applied, and the participants are allowed to act during thirty seconds.
    Traditional Nigerian sport Ayo.
  5. Weight lifting. It does not originate from Nigeria, but it has reached great popularity in the country. Black people are very strong, which gives the opportunity to become prominent in such kind of activity. Nowadays states and federal government sponsor such competitions. There even exists Nigeria weight lighting federation. In recent years, this sport has received fast growth.
    Traditional Nigerian sport Weight lifting.

As you see, there are many interesting sports in Nigeria. The Traditional sports federation has been created to develop and preserve them as cultural heritage. This country has made big success in modern western sports, and managed to give African Olympic winners to the world.

Being essential part of life in Nigeria, traditional sports must be preserved and displayed to the people of all ages. At the same time, it is vital to develop modern sports, which have got so famous in the country.

In general, such competitions provoke unity and mutual interests of people, which is wonderful for building a strong nation. That’s why such activities must be made available for any layers of society.


I enjoy sports. I love to play sports and watch various sports programs, shows and transmissions. Follow sports news in the world. A: I like to watch the Nigerian players, boxers. A team like the Nigerian Super Eagles. More recently heard of a traditional Nigerian boxing Dambe. This is a type of martial arts where participants compete in the sand. In Nigeria, there are many kinds of sports which are unique to this country.Nigerian athletes are very talented and have repeatedly won prizes at international competitions.

Answered 2 years ago.

Nigerian athletes the different awards. Have prizes. Traditional sports are an "integral part of their culture. One of the most famous sports is basketball. I also worked at school in this sport. I like it. Guests watch the race. Root for the Nigerian team. There's good guys. Also, I like African dance. I like the costumes dancers. With pleasure studied African dance. But unfortunately we do not teach. As for weightlifting, so Nigerian guys enjoy this type of sport. They love to boast of its beautiful body. These athletes are very strong and slender.

Answered 2 years ago.
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