Nigeria has made its mark in global sports competition. Its national soccer team, the Super Eagles, is adjudged the best in Africa and one of the best ten in the world. Nigeria won the first World Cup in the under-16 category in China in 1985 and came second in the same category two years later in Canada. Its Under-20 soccer team won the bronze medal in the Junior World Cup competition in the Soviet Union in 1985 and the silver medal in Saudi Arabia in 1989. In the 1994 World Cup competition, Nigeria led its group to qualify for the second round.
In professional boxing, Nigeria has produced three world champions (Hogan “Kid” Bassey (featherweight, 1957-1959); Dick Tiger, (middleweight, 1962-1963) and Massachusetts resident, Bash Ali (cruiserweight, 1987). Nigeria’s athletes have also won Olympic medals in long jump, 400 x 4 relay and several other track and field events. Dozens of Nigerians are today professional athletes in Europe and America. A Nigerian based in the US, Hakeem Olajuwon, is today roundly adjudged the best basketballer in the world.
Nigerian sports, though always exercised, was noted first in the 1950s. Nigeria had it’s first appearance in the Helsinki Olympic Games in 1952, and it’s first victory in 1954, when Emmanuel Ifeanjuna won a gold medal in the high jump at the Commonwealth games in Cardiff. In 1962, the Nationals Sports Council was set up, and in 1971, the National Sports Commission, and they had the following responsibilities (stated exactly as is):
* To coordinate and integrate efforts to raise the standard of performance in sports in Nigeria.
* To encourage the development, organization and participation of sports in Nigeria.
* To make any arrangements on behalf of the States’ Sports Councils for Competitions, technical assistance, recruitment of coaches and for any other matters as the Commission sees fit.
* To promote physical fitness and general well-being of all persons in Nigeria
In terms of football/soccer, the Nigerian Football Federation was created in 1945. It was the first year that a competition was organized bringing together clubs from Lagos, Port Harcourt and Calabar. The championship was also renamed the Challenge Cup replacing the Governor’s Cup as it had been known under their British colonizers. It was only several years later that the Challenge Cup became a national trophy when other top clubs from different provinces were invited to play. However, the clubs had to wait till 1990 for the professional league to be introduced.
Nigeria emerged on the international football/soccer scene in 1960 when it first entered the World Cup, but failed to qualify for the finals. It eventually qualified for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. The Nigerian National League began in 1972 when five teams entered the league. This grew to 12 teams by 1978. The victories Nigeria has won are stated in the records section below. Locally within Nigeria, there are many sporting clubs that one can join.
The following sports are played in Nigeria (listed alphabetically):
Athletics (track and field), Badminton, Basketball, Baseball, Boxing, Chess, Cricket, Cycling, Football (most popular sport in Nigeria), Gymnastics, Golf, Handball, Hockey, Judo, Lawn Tennis, Rowing, Shooting, Squash rackets, Swimming, Table Tennis / Ping-Pong, Taekwondo, Volleyball, Weight-lifting and Wrestling.
In Olympics, Nigeria usually participates in Soccer, Judo, Wrestling, Boxing, Weightlifting, Tennis, Long jump, Triple jump, Table-tennis and the Sprints.