The world of sports is one of the many things that bring people together, regardless of skin color, age, and gender. With various tournaments, competitions, leagues, and governing bodies, it is a global language. It usually comes as a form of enjoyment for competitors and entertainment for spectators. It also can be categorized as outdoor sports like Football or indoor sports like Chess.
In Nigeria, Football is the most popular, widely accepted, and most successful sport, as the country boasts of its national team, The Super Eagles, who represent the country in international games, and has made its mark as one of the best teams in Africa and once ranked 5th in the world. Asides football, there are many untapped sports unknown to fans in Nigeria. Sports like crickets, judo, lawn tennis, and so on, are well known globally but are still finding their foot in the land of Nigeria, despite its centuries-old existence. This is why we have put this list together to open your eyes and hearts to the reality of many sports that individuals would not only be passionate fans of but also participate in. You’d be surprised at how old these sports are in Nigeria, and the bodies governing them.
1. Dambe Boxing
This is a generations-old sport popular among the Hausa people in Northern Nigeria. In those days it was meant for practicing military skills, but now it is a martial art sport that is usually held during festivities, where it is now played to achieve personal prestige, and family honor. The boxer fights with a cord wrapped around his stronger fist which is used for striking, and he uses his other arm for defense. The popularity of this sport brings the question of safety as its aggressive nature results in broken jaws and ribs as competitors in the match typically aim to subdue each other within three rounds. Dambe is coined from the Hausa word, “boxe“, and the boxers are, “damanga“.
This is a game that combines the elements of table tennis and football as single, double, or triple players hit a soccer ball back and forth on a spherical/curved table, using any part of the body except hands and arms. It consists of a defender and an attacker. It was introduced in Nigeria through the Embassy of Hungary in Nigeria, and now that it is classified as an Olympic sport, it serves as a means for the country to win medals. On Tuesday, 18th June 2019, two Nigerian teqball players won silver medals at the first African Beach Teqball Games held in Cape Verde. Prior to this amazing debut, Teqball was unknown in Nigeria as it was only played in one academy in the whole nation.
The game of squash dates back to the 70s when it was brought to Nigeria. It is specifically known as squash due to its obvious difference to lawn tennis where it is marked by walls that players hit, while tennis is played on a rectangular, flat surface. The Nigeria Squash Federation (NSF), located in Abuja, Nigeria was established in 1974, to supervise and govern the sport at the national level. Squash falls under the racket and ball sport category, involving two, or four players in a four-walled court, alternately striking a small hollow rubber ball on the walls. The other associations involved with squash in Nigeria, are namely Nigeria Squash Professional Association (NSPAN) and Chamberlain Squash Open (CSO).
This is a popular modern sport globally, which is now gaining ground in Nigeria as children begin to take interest in it. The art of gymnastics involves the display of distinct exercises on the floor, bars, beams, and vaulting horse. Competitive gymnastics in Nigeria is managed by the Gymnastics Federation of Nigeria, which was established in 1975. The federation is affiliated with the International Federation of Gymnastics. Although on April 13th, 2018, Jade Faulkner, a Nigerian gymnast became the first female gymnast to compete at the 2018 Commonwealth Games held in Gold Coast, Australia, Nigeria has not made an appearance in the Olympics due to lack of sponsorship/national competitions, and poor facilities.
This is also surprisingly one of the oldest sports in Nigeria, dating back to 1972. Participants use bicycles for leisure, recreation, fitness, and competitive sport. The sport is governed by the Cycling Federation of Nigeria, and it is known to be an expensive sport due to the cost of equipment which is usually shipped from Europe, making it difficult for more participation. For the first time in 2013, The Nigerian Cycling team took part in the African Continental Championship held in Sharm-El Sheik, Egypt, winning a silver medal.
Only a handful of the population knows the existence of this sport in Nigeria as many do not care for the sport. It was introduced by the British in Nigeria but it remains a minority sport in West Africa. The game of cricket is a bat-and-ball game played on a round/oval cricket field between two teams of eleven, players each. The 42 rules of cricket are detailed in a code called, “The Laws of Cricket”. Just like football, before the game begins, the captains of each team toss a coin to decide which team will bat first and take first innings, being the term used for each phase of the game; one team bats, attempting to score while the other defends. Cricket in Nigeria is governed by the Nigerian Cricket Federation and its national team is ranked 40th by International.
7. Lawn Tennis
Nigerians are acquainted with table tennis than lawn tennis. Lawn tennis is a racket sport that can be played by single or double teams. Players typically use a tennis racket to strike a hollow rubber ball into the opponent’s court. One of the oldest clubs in Nigeria is the Lagos Lawn Tennis Club, located at the Tafawa Balewa Square, Lagos, Nigeria. The game of lawn tennis came into existence in Nigeria as far back as the early 20th century, and so far it has declined in availability, performance, and development.
8. Hand Ball
In 1972, handball as a sport was officially introduced in Nigeria. It is a team sport played by two teams of seven players each. In two, periods of 30minutes each, players pass a ball using their hands with the goal of throwing it into the goal post of the other team; scoring more goals is equal to a win. Nigeria is usually represented by the Nigeria National Handball team during international competitions. Although, Nigeria has lost its track of handball over the years due to lack of passionate participants, sponsorship, and poor management, the current administration of the Handball Federation of Nigeria promises to revive its spirit.
This Japanese originated martial art has since evolved into a combat and Olympic sport. In 1973, Nigeria was introduced to Judo, and like Taekwondo, it is one of the fast-rising sports in Nigeria. The sport involves direct physical attack and defense where the aim is to either throw, or takedown, immobilize and subdue, or force the submission of the opponent. The Nigerian Judo Association (NAJA) and, Nigeria Judo Federation (NJF) are the governing bodies of Judo in Nigeria and their mission is to uplift the game to a higher level by arousing the interest of other sports lovers.
10. Track and Field: Shot put/High Jump/Long Jump
It is among the oldest form of sporting events in Nigeria and globally. It is played individually or as a team, especially in relay races. The rule of track and field is for athletes to always remain in their track lane or be disqualified. It comprises road running, shot put, javelin/discus throw, long/high jump etc. It is typically played in an oval running track stadium that has a grass field for jumping and throwing activities. In the jumping activity, an athlete has to avoid touching or bringing down the crossbar while in the throwing event, a shotput, discus, or hammer is propelled from a point, and athletes are judged based on the distance it is thrown.
Even as Nigeria continues to maintain its national and global recognition in football, there are still many sporting activities that need to be tapped, nurtured, and developed. It is very doable for Nigeria to gain ground in these activities as proper management, sponsorship, and sportsmanship will successfully put Nigeria on other sports map of the world.