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Sunday, June 16, 2024

A Look at Nigeria’s Traditional Sports and its Quagmire

If traditional sports competition is encouraged, Nigeria will be more peaceful compared to the way it is right now

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Hamzat Ibrahim Abaga
Hamzat Ibrahim Abaga
Hamzat Ibrahim Abaga is a graduate of Mass Communication and aspiring investigative journalist.

NIGERIA: Sports is said to be as old as humanity itself. So, every country is known for its various sports, to consider as a way of uniting and building peace among themselves. Nigeria is no exception as it has its own traditional forms of sports events rooted in its culture and tradition.

Sports have different varieties which are carefully selected by the participants for participation or investment. This includes soccer, golf, tennis, volleyball, race, wrestling, boxing and others.

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However, as there are many events in and around sports in Nigeria Transcontinental Times carefully selects three traditional sports events across Nigeria that are gradually disappearing. These are Kokawa (wrestling), Dambe (boxing), and Ayo Olopon, known as board games.

These sports are a rare feature on Nigeria’s sporting calendar.

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Ayo Olopon (board game)

This is a traditional Yoruba game mostly played in Nigeria, around West African countries and in the Caribbean.

In the literal sense, Ayò Olọ́pọ́n means “the game of the wooden board” in Yoruba, one of the widely spoken languages in Nigeria.

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To participate in this game, one needs to be very smart and sharp in action and decision making. Ayo Olopon requires players to battle for who gets more seeds.

The game contains 12 holes, six from each side of the box, and the holes contain four seeds each. The side of the board is 0.8m to 1.2m. One who gets more seeds than the opponent does will be the winner.

Dambe (Boxing)

Dambe is derived from the Hausa word, meaning box. This can be said to be a form of traditional boxing that has to do with the Hausa cultural group in Nigeria.

The Dambe is dominated by butchers, the game also prepares men against war and to learn new techniques and terminology. The events always take place to mark the harvest period, the locals travel to different villages in commemoration of the day while they engage themselves in a fight.

However, there are different varieties of boxing in Nigeria, depending on the culture and the part of the country which determines the form and the kind of boxing. 

Dambe is among the varieties of the traditional fight which remind people of their traditional boxing.

While playing traditional boxing, the players must have their fists covered on a bandage, and the over fist will remain wrapped. 

The fight always takes place in the middle of circle sand. The rule is, if one of the players steps out of the circle, he will be announced disqualified, which means he has been defeated. 

Kokawa (Wrestling)

This is a traditional kind of wrestling. This has a close relationship with Nigerian sports and it is connected to the traditional rules and customs.

Kokawa is done to serve as a pass for agreeing for a man to have a hand in marrying a woman. Here if a man sees a lady and he is interested or wants to ask for her hand in marriage, a day will be set aside for the two interested strong men to engage themselves in Kokawa (Wrestling) and whoever wins will be given the lady to marry. This only takes place during festive periods.

Here, the men battle in a circle to determine the strongest and who gets the lady to marry. However, the circle is six meters wide and whoever steps out of the circle is considered defeated. 

The fight, therefore, comes in different categories. Where there are always three rounds of the fight.

Traditional sports for peacebuilding

If traditional sports competition is encouraged, Nigeria will be more peaceful compared to the way it is right now. The competitions will be played among different cultures which are capable of bringing people from different cultural backgrounds, regions, tribes and ethnicity together to compete for a medal or trophy.

Making traditional sports activities mandatory in academics and as well as promoting them at a higher international level to bring peace and unity in Nigeria is the aim.

Also, encouraging the participation of traditional sports during any national or local sports festival will also go a long way in bridging the problem of disunity among Nigerians.

The problem of traditional sports in Nigeria

The competition faced by the traditional sports activities due to the introduction of modern sport in Nigeria has posed a greater challenge to the success of the local sports in the country.

Lack of facilities has also caused a setback for the participation of such sports in the country. 

Lack of government’s interest in the activities of the local sport has also made it lose its value and drive many people away from participating. 

If traditional sports could be adopted today in Nigeria’s sporting activities as ‘Traditional Sports Federation,’ it will help in preserving and rekindling sport participation by the locals.

Nigerians have made a big success in modern western sports competitions worldwide. Let traditional sports be given the same kind of attention and investment by the federal government as the reawakening of local sports will help in reuniting people around the nation with like-minded interests and objectives.

Also Read: Exploring the Rani ki Vav (The Queen’s Stepwell) in Gujarat


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