In August 1993, when the then National Sports Commission in Nigeria under the leadership of Chief Alex Akinyele declared the formation of Nigerian Association of Traditional Sports (NATS), there was no peculiar definition given to Traditional Sports. This was because everybody knows what Traditional Sports are, here. We know what our Traditional Sports are, especially by naming them. We automatically know that sports like Ayo, Abula, Aarin (African Billiards) Dambe, Kokawa, Langa, Bojuboju, Abili, Mudesi, Ekunmeran, Gbadigbadi etc are categorized as Traditional Sports.


26042018 afrotradosports


However, the Chief specified reasons or purposes for which the association on Traditional Sports was formed. The purposes include discovery, documentation, promotion, exportation, modernization etc.


By 2001/2005 when Mallam Elias Yusuf became the President of TSFN, intellectual power/capacity was injected into the Sports Federation and coincidentally, Traditional Sports had started to receive serious attention worldwide through UNESCO, some NGOs, some governmental bodies, especially in Europe where associations like TAFISA, TOCATI, European Traditional Sports and Games Association (ETSGA) with emergent of ICH and TSG as new vocabularies for the pursuance of promoting Traditional Sports in Europe.


Since Europe became involved in the promotion of Traditional Sports, the definitions of Traditional Sports became an “issue imperative”.


What is a traditional sport? Or what are traditional sports? Traditional Sports are defined as follows:


“TAFISA RECALL” in its Abstract to the definition of Traditional Sports and Games (TSG) theoretically stated, that the definition by some international institutions e.g UNESCO, ETSGA, etc used five criteria to process the definition. These were: heritage, classification, preservation, dissemination and consequently popularization among young generation. One of The main definitionS of TSG by TAFISAL is stated “Traditional Games are motor activities as of leisure and recreation which can have a ritual character. They are part of the universal heritage diversity. They are practiced in an individual or collective manner, deriving from regional or local identity. They are based on rules accepted by a group that organizes competitive or non-competitive activities. Traditional games dispose of a popular character in their practice and in their organization, yet if turned into sport tend to be uniform and institutionalized. The practice of traditional games promotes global Health qoating UNESCO, 2009.


European Traditional Sports and Games Association [ETSGA] viewed Traditional Sports as follows:

“Traditional Sports And Games, because they are part of Europe’s intangible heritage and represent both the cultural diversity, constitute a priviledge tool to foster cultural identification at the European level as well as strengthen the European identity. Against the past decade’s trend towards their disappearance, the recent European projects co-founded by the European Commission’s preparatory actions in the field of sports have shown that engaging sustainable action for the safeguarding and promotion, TSG will contribute to the building of a new momentum towards European identification.”


Now, let us come back home here in Nigeria, in Africa, an attempt to define Traditional Sports was intuitively carried out in an Introduction to a paper presented at Traditional Sports Federation of Nigeria (TSFN) National Seminar Workshop and Training, for Technical Officials and Administrators of Traditional Sports in December, 2013, National Stadium Abuja, Nigeria by Mallam Elias Yusuf. The definition goes thus: WHAT IS A TRADITIONAL INDIGENOUS SPORT?

“A sport is indigenous into the niche, town, locality, state, country and the continent in which the sport was invented. As the sport is being practiced over and over, over the years, it becomes a traditional sport of the place and its immediate environment from where it was invented”. This was further expanded when the issue was going to be posted on the website of with the following addition “It may become a tradition of playing this sport/game at a particular season of the year or may be, it has been selected to mark certain annual celebration/festival in the town or state of invention. Therefore it has now grown to be called traditional sport of that area. Eventually, it has become traditional sport of the niche, town, council, state, nation and continent it was invented”.


Coming back to the original seminar paper, the definition continued further by saying, “So, when we refer to African Traditional Indigenous Sports {ATIS} we are referring to Sports that originated from any part of the continent of Africa, remembering that African continent is one of the five continental sport blocks in the world. That is the reason why we have continental sports bodies like COJA, CAF, ANOCA, CONAIS, ATIWA etc and the five rings of the Olympic Games symbol with Africa being represented by the central black ring of the symbol.


To the readers of this write up, I am reminding you, that is out to educate, entertain, promote (etc) on  our Traditional Sports. This particular episode is to alert all of us in Africa, that those of us, who might be erroneously thinking, that EUROPE which may be the most advanced continent in sports development in modern and global sports in the world, is not leaving any stone unturned in promoting her Traditional Sports and Games [TSG} Development. The question is, are we going to lag behind in Traditional Sport Development again?


There is a great rising profile of Traditional Sports and Games in the world now. Let us start with those of us reading this column. We should begin to spread the message in order to make sure that our Traditional Sports do not lag behind. Then, our government, institutions, individuals involved in promotion of our Traditional Sports should not SIT-DOWN-LOOK.

Europe which is like a “light year” ahead of Africa in the ownership of GLOBAL SPORTS, is already working harder than Africa in developing and promoting her Traditional Indigenous Sports and games (TISG).


Thank you.


By Mallam Elias Yusuf      




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s