Market research, Sport

What are the 5 most popular sports in Nigeria?

As the most populous country in Africa (and the seventh most populous in the world), Nigeria is home to some of the continents’ greatest athletes and most popular competitions. What are the most popular sports in Nigeria? Let’s find out with STATSCORE!

Nigerian fans are famous for being quite obsessive when it comes to following sports and supporting their teams. The country is also home to some of the continent’s most famous athletes and sports teams.

The most popular disciplines, like football, were first introduced in the country by British colonizers, while others, such as Dambe boxing, have been contested for several centuries of the country’s history. What sports are Nigerians most passionate about? Here’s the top 5!

1. Football

Football is, without a doubt, the most followed sport in Nigeria. It was introduced during the British colonial period and quickly spread all over the country through railroad companies, mission schools and the military. 

The Nigeria national football team, nicknamed Super Eagles, has given the country some of it’s most memorable sporting moments. Nigerians, led by such players as Nwankwo Kanu and Jay-Jay Okocha, won the Olympic gold medal in football in Atlanta 1996.

Super Eagles qualified for football World Cup in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2010, 2014, and 2018. The team also holds the record of being the most decorated one in the history of the African Cup of Nations, with three victories, four silver and eight bronze medals.

The highest level of the Nigerian football pyramid is represented by the Nigerian Professional Football League (NPFL), which is considered one of the top leagues in Africa.

2. Basketball

Basketball has been played in Nigeria since the 1950s and the country’s national team joined FIBA in 1964. D’Tigers (male team) and D’Tigress (female team) have both enjoyed some success and attracted many sports fans across the country.

The interest in the sport was boosted even further with Hakeem Olajuwon becoming one of the NBA superstars in the 1990s.

The Nigerian Premier Basketball League (NFP) is the highest tier of men’s professional basketball in Nigeria. It is contested by sixteen times divided into two conferences (Savannah and Atlantic).

3. Dambe

Dambe is a martial art steeped in the tradition of the Hausa people, which is one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa. 

The fights, which were traditionally held among Hausa butchers, have in recent times seen enormous growth in popularity attracting millions of online viewers.

The popularity of the sport is growing – and not just in Nigeria. More than 60% of the views of videos posted on YouTube channels, such as Dembe Warriors, takes place outside of the country, most often in Indonesia, the Philippines and the USA.

The country’s attempts to establish a national league were interrupted by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

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4. Athletics

Track and field athletics provided Nigerian sports fans with some of the most memorable sports-related moments in their lives, and are widely practised throughout the country.

The country is represented by some of the world’s most promising athletes, including:

  • Ese Brume – long jumper, three-time African Champion, 3024 Commonwealth Games winner, 2014 African Games winner, Bronze medalist at the 2016 World Championships;
  • Tobi Amusan – 100 metres hurdles runner and sprinter, 2018 Commonwealth and 2019 African champion, two-time African Games champion;
  • Chukwuebuka Enekwechi – thrower, 2018 Commonwealth Games Silver medallist and African Champion in the shot put, 2019 African Games winner.

5. Boxing

Professional boxing, which kicked off in 1947 in the country,  is another popular sport in Nigeria. 

During the 1950s and 1960s, it used to be considered the most popular sport in Nigeria but then experienced a steady decline. The interest in the sport was rekindled in the 2000s thanks to boxing nights organised by GOtv television channel.

Nigeria had three world champions in boxing:

• Dick Tiger – middleweight, 1962-1963;
• Hogan “Kid” Bassey – featherweight, 1957-1959;
• Bash Ali – cruiserweight, 1987.

Currently, there are about 300 professional boxers in Nigeria.

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