Sport is an important part of Nigerian culture. A large proportion of Nigerians take part in sporting activities in their spare time as a way to stay active and to socialise with friends.
This love of sport has helped to put Nigeria on the map, with many of its athletes seeing success in the Olympic games and joining foreign sports teams to compete in their domestic leagues.
Football is King in Nigeria
Association football (soccer) is the sport where this is most prevalent. Like the rest of the African continent, football is the most popular sport in Nigeria. Walk down any residential street in Nigeria and it won’t take you long to find a game of street football taking place.
Around 50 Nigerian players have competed in the English Premier League, with several currently playing for table topping teams. This includes Kelechi Iheanacho, who was part of Leicester City’s Premier League winning side, and Alex Iwobi who previously played for Arsenal, but now dons the blue shirt of Everton.
Other Popular Sports
Outside of football, other popular sports in Nigeria include boxing, basketball, running, and dancing. With 20 players, Nigeria has produced more NBA players than any other country in Africa, with three still actively playing in the 2019-20 season.
One sport that you may not think has much of a hold in Nigeria is American Football. However, you’d be wrong.
American football is the biggest sport in the United States, with several teams worth billions of dollars. The final game of the season, the Super Bowl, decides which team will be the winner of the NFL each year. It attracts around one third of the entire US population, who tune in to watch the game on TV. Many media companies and sports commentators focus on the build-up to the game, providing fans with expert analysis that gives an insight into the playoff games.
In Nigeria, American football has a more modest following. The sport was first played in the country in 2016, with two games between the Lagos Marines and the Ahmadu Bello University Titans.
In the years leading up to the game Ahmadu Bello University had been training its players by holding internal matches. Meanwhile, the Lagos Marines were founded in 2013 when a German coach began recruiting players, paying for kits out of his own pocket. The team now trains four times each week, and its players dream of entering the NFL Draft.
New American Football Stadium and Championship
While no formal American football league exists four years on from these first games, American football is slowly growing in the country. The country now has the Nigerian American Football Association, which is leading the charge to find more American Football talent from around the country.
This body has stated it is now working on plans to build an American football stadium in Nigeria, and is actively seeking sponsors to help assist in this endeavor. This announcement came alongside a declaration to begin working on the formation of a national American football championship.
Acting President of the Lagos Marines, Babajide Akeredolu, made the announcements by saying that American football could have a positive effect on society in the country, and that all parties interested in the sport now need to come together to help it grow in Nigeria.
By building a new stadium in Nigeria, Akeredolu hopes that he can attract the NFL as it looks for new territories to hold international NFL games. These games have been held across the world in recent years, taking place in Mexico, London, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Japan, Ireland, Australia and Spain.
Holding a game in Nigeria would make the country the first African nation to hold an officially sanctioned NFL competition.
How Soon Will it Happen?
While Akeredolu’s announcement was made with bags of enthusiasm, little detail was provided, and no firm dates were placed on the construction of a stadium or the launch of a Nigerian American football championship.
While he remains passionate about the success of the sport in the country, American football’s future will likely rest on the decisions of potential sponsors and politicians. Both of these groups will be required by Akeredolu to make his vision a reality.