Yes, let us go there!


Yes, there we go! Yes or No! Were there Traditional Sports in the XX1 Commonwealth Games?  I say, do you agree, that there were some Traditional Sports in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, at Gold Coast, Australia?



I know that those of us here in Africa, we have our indigenous traditional sports like Ayo, Abula, Aarin (African Billiards), Dambe (traditional boxing), Kokawa (traditional wrestling), Langa (a kind of marshal arts sport), Horse racing (Durbar), Abili, Mudesi, Gbadigbadi, Ekunmeran, Pharaoh boxing, Nsango etc. Was any one of these African Traditional Sports in the Commonwealth Games? No. certainly our African Traditional Sports were not there. This was because these were Traditional Sports from Africa. It was not just that alone. It was because these our Traditional Sports are still at the level of sports not yet “institutionalized”. Very  soon in this write up you will know what it means for a sport to be “institutionalized”. Some of our Traditional Sports have started to receive “treatment” or have started to receive “instrument” of “institutionalization”.


Now, let us go back to our initial question. Do you believe that there were Traditional Sports among the Commonwealth Games of 2018 at Gold Coast, Australia? I will rather prefer to answer the question with proof and not direct “Yes or No” answer. I will also answer the question from European point of view as elucidated by “TAFISA RECALL”.


The European Traditional Sports and Games Association (ETSGA) classified Traditional sports under eight divisions, according to TAFISA RECALL. The divisions  include:


  1. Malleable ball games, played without or with the use of equipment such as racket, bat stick. From this group, let us pick net ball as a traditional game in the current Commonwealth Games. Yes, it’s among.
  2. Non-malleable balls such as bowls, skittle games, billiards, etc. from that group, we can identify, Lawn bowl in the current Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia.
  3. Throwing games involving throwing objects such as darts, hammer, bullet, cabers etc. From this division, we can pick hammer which is in the current Commonwealth Games.
  4. Shooting games e.g. fire-arms, target shooting, blowpipes, sling etc. Shooting was among the sports in this just concluded 2018 Commonwealth Games.
  5. Fighting and jousting sports e.g. wrestling, drilling stone contest, quintana, tug-of-war etc. Wrestling was among the Commonwealth Games 2018.
  6. Animal games tagged (cruel games) where an animal is the object of play.
  7. Locomotion games, involving moving oneself or moving an object. Such sports may mean sports like running and throwing, the relay race etc.
  8. Acrobatics, which requires skillful body control e.g. Castells. Gymnastics can identify with this group.


It is cristal clear that there were Traditional Sports at this 2018 Commonwealth Games. However, all the Traditional Sports there have gotten to “institutionalized” level.


First, what is a Traditional Sport? By my own observation, Europe is not defining “a Traditional Sport”, rather in Europe; they define Traditional Sports in plurality. Most of the definitions available will tell you “Traditional Games” or more frequently “Traditional Sports and Games (TSG), thereafter using “TSG” as acronym for the vocabulary standing for Traditional Sports in their texts.


For example, TAFISA RECALL, featuring Blanchard (1995) as viewing Traditional Sports on anthropological point of view. “He saw TSG as forms of sports activities directly tied to particular local ethnic or folk cultures (ethnic or folk sport), mostly competitive with physical play and game-like elements with limited or no professional variants, with stronger ritual overtones than those so-called modern sports. In this respect, TSG preserved traditional values, developed the skills of participants and help to link the present with the past”.


TAFISA RECALL went further to give more comprehensive definition of Traditional Sports as: “Traditional games are motor activities 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 practices of traditional games promote global health (UNESCO 2009)”.


The beauty of the definition is that it looks very simple, yet it is very sophiscated. It means, Traditional Sports are not “yet real sports” until “turned into sport tend to be uniform and institutionalized”. To my understanding, such traditional sports should have been developed, improved, with articulate universal rules and regulations (institutionalized). The sport becoming an “institution” must have received professional variants.


The Traditional Sport, graduating from that local level, to become a global sport (a real sport) is the main target of our African Traditional Sports.


Let us look at the real sports at this 2018 Commonwealth Games, Gold Coast Australia, (the XX1 Commonwealth Games). The approved sports include;

  1. Athletics
  2. Badminton
  3. Basketball
  4. Bowls
  5. Boxing
  6. Aquatics
  7. Hockey
  8. Rugby Seven
  9. Squash
  10. Table Tennis
  11. Volleyball
  12. Wrestling
  13. Cycling
  14. Gymnastics
  15. Netball
  16. Shooting
  17. Triathlon
  18. Weightlifting


All the above sports, were the approved sports of 2018 Commonwealth Games. Each of the sports listed above is an “institution” with professional variants.


What does it entail for a sport to be an institution, or to be institutionalized? To have professional variants? It may mean:


  • Should have possessed universally accepted rules and regulations
  • Has spread to many countries
  • Has spread to the countries that are participating in it
  • Has international controlling body
  • Has spread to most of all the continents of the world
  • Each country participating in it must have gotten to a level of proficiency that will make the team representing her not to be a misfit on the field of play
  • Techniques and technologies must have been injected into it after its initial raw invention and existence.
  • Capacity building must have been imbued into it.

Yes, let us go there and make our AfricanTraditional Sport get there.

Thank you.


Mallam Elias Yusuf

16 – 04 – 2018


This novel idea of Lagos becoming the HUB of Sports in Africa was muted on September 18, 2016 in a full page interview granted by a Foremost National Newspaper to Mr. Deji Tinubu [Late], the Pioneer Chairman, Lagos State Sports Commission who also doubled  as Special Adviser on Sports to the Executive Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency Mr. Akinwumi Ambode.



What is a HUB?

The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English otherwise known as THE LIVING DICTIONARY defines “hub” as the central and most important part of an area, system, activity etc. which all other parts are connected to. So, Lagos being HUB of SportS in Africa, the whole of Africa, not Africa South of Sahara, that is a dream to outclass Cairo, Johannesburg, Casablanca, Nairobi and Accra in sport development.


Late Mr. Deji Tinubu, granting the interview for his first year in office as the Chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission, described Lagos as a “state of over 20 million residents with over 60% of them being young people who can be recreational or professional athletes”. He viewed this gigantic project as covering facilities, programmes, events, resources and to be addressed on short, mid-term and long term basis. He said that his pronouncement was based on the passion that the Executive Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode has for sports.


The phrase “passion for sports” seems to be very endemic with the current Governor and his predecessors in office. His immediate predecessor, even though, sports was not among his “ten points agenda”, his passion for sports could be confirmed through four major areas of achievements. (1) Sports-facilities (improvement and development) such as Teslim Balogun Campos Mini Stadium, Jalisco, Oshodi etc (2) Hosting the national sports festival EKO 2012  in less than normal two-year approval interval (3) Hosting of international sports events like Governor’s Cup on Tennis, international  marathons, hosting of Serena and Venus Williams, etc. and (4) The Principals’ Cup, repackaged principals’ cup to also cover Girls’ version.


With the pronouncement of “Project, Lagos the Hub of Sports in Africa” so to name it, the achievements of His Excellency in Sports in Lagos State may just compare with what happened to Oshodi, under Governor Fashola which was hailed nationwide or more than nationwide. What is currently happening to Oshodi, how do we describe it? A dreamland! that may be a dream like Marthin Luther King Jr devine pronouncement “I have a dream”

The dream of this project has been aptly demonstrated in a two – in – one practical action.  When His Excellency Governor Akinwunmi Ambode visited the National Stadium, Surulere in 2017 with the Minister of Sports Mr. Solomon Dalung, and the visit of President Mohammadu Buhari to Lagos for the 10th colloquium of the Birth Day of Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu. On the two occasions, the Governor (of Lagos State) hammered the same point “to collect the National Stadium, Surulere from the Federal Government of Nigeria, in order to save it from decay and develop it for usage for sports economy, social sports, sports tourism and general well being of the environment.


If this happens, the Federal Government of Nigeria should have struck  gold unknowingly. It would have been the case of the film titled “the … of Bagdad”. The actor was told, the gate to the venture he was going for was located “where it was not”. The actor was thoroughly confused. This was because the actor did not know where to approach again. He was just wandering about in that location when suddenly the earth surface beneath him gave way so he submerged into a cave that led him to where he was searching for.


Yes, the progress we are searching for in this nation Nigeria, Sport is a major outlet to gain access to it and particularly our Indigenous Traditional Sports, that we did not take seriously, they hold the ace. (There is going to be an article on this matter just mentioned later in the series.)


The Late Mr. Deji Tinubu elucidated on this “Hub” project further by saying “ we want to revive the sports culture in the state by creating an enabling environment for sports to thrive, reinvigorating school sports facilities, discovering and preparing the best talents for competitions and professionals sports careers, working with our clubs in the NPFL and lower leagues, on how to optimize match-day opportunities, adding excitement to our existing competitions, creating and partnering with new events and competitions, and investing massively in renewal of existing sports facilities as well as constructing new ones. We are working with local and international partners already”.


As a follow up to this commitment as stated above, in February 2017, Senior Special Assistant on Sports facilities and Infrastructure to Lagos State Governor, Mr. Bolaji Yusuf granted another full page interview in support of the goal of making Lagos Hub of Sports in Africa. He said “Governor Akinwunmi Ambode says, he wants to use sports to drive tourism and that means we have to prepare well. We have to take into consideration the size of the State, which has about 20million people. We did sports facility update and discovered we are far behind but the Governor has promised to have five new stadia across the five divisions (of Lagos State) in the span of this administration.


The state is looking at about 50, (recreational facilities) which means in every community, we’ll have recreational facilities in every LGA and LCDA… They will be used by physically challenged people too”.


That is very good; however this is where Traditional Indigenous Sports come to town. Where are the facilities for our Traditional Sports? Our major popular indigenous sports are Abula, Ayo, African Billiards, Dambe, Kokawa and Langa .


We just have to remember that our Traditional Sports Friendly man, the Pioneer Lagos State Sports Commission Chairman Late Mr. Deji Tinubu organized the 1st Lagos State Traditional Games Championship for secondary schools on three Traditional Sports of ABULA, AYO and KOKAWA [TRADITIONAL WRESTLING] on 12th – 14th October, 2016 at Campos Mini Stadium, Lagos Island. 14 secondary schools participated in female while 15 participated in male categories in Abula while 24 and 27 schools participated in female and male categories respectively in Ayo. Afrotradosports hereby pays tribute to our friend, a benefactor, a pioneering supporter and promoter of our Traditional Sports. May his soul be accepted into paradise [amen]. We pay you GREAT TRIBUTE, that that permanent smile on your face while you were alive will never disappear where you are in heaven.


Finally in this March 2018, confirming the idea of Lagos becoming Hub of Sports in Africa, the new Chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission, who had taken up that position when Late Mr. Deji Tinubu moved to another sphere of endeavour in the Lagos State set up before his demise, Dr. Kweku Adedayo Tandoh has just effected a major reform in Lagos State Traditional Sports Association by spreading the five sports in the association to be supervised by five vice chairmen under a co-ordinating chairman. These supervising vice chairmen will be specializing in the Traditional Sports they supervise.


This is a great innovation. It is highly commended. Traditional Sport Federation of Nigeria [TSFN] should take note.


The BIG QUESTIONS from is: What is in the HUB for our indigeneous African Traditional Sports?  


Thank you.



Mallam Elias Yusuf

6 – 04 – 2018



Afro-Tradosports In Our Schools in Africa

Afro-Tradosports In Our Schools in Africa

In June 1993, the Sports Unit of the Federal Ministry of Education, Nigeria, organized a workshop at the University of Ibadan Conference Center on Nigerian Traditional Sports.


The theme of the workshop was “Popularizing Nigerian Indigenous Games in Nigerian Schools.” This workshop was organized a few months ahead of the inauguration of Nigerian Association of Traditional Sports (NATS) by the defunct National Sports Commission, Nigeria, under Chief Alex Akinyele. This shows that the Federal Ministry of Education was one of the pioneers in revival and the promotion of Nigerian/African Indigenous Sports. However after this workshop, the Ministry slumped into a deep and long slumber until May, 2001 when it organized another workshop under the auspices of National Committee Workshop on Setting and Harmonizing Rules and Regulations to guide the teaching and playing of Traditional Sports in all educational institutions in Nigeria. The workshop took place at Shiroro Hotel, Minna, Niger State, Nigeria on 2nd – 5th May, 2001. The outcome of the workshop was later presented to the Joint Consultative Committee on Education (JCCE) which in turn later presented the approved recommendation on Traditional Sports to the National Council on Education.

The National Council on Education under the leadership of the then Minister of Education, Prof. Babalola Borishade eventually approved four Nigerian/African Indigenous sports to be introduced into our school curriculum. The approved sports were Abula, Ayo, Kokawa and Langa. Dambe was considered and dropped at the workshop level because of its combat nature.

This onerous approval ended the age long perdition that had been visited on African indigenous sports through slave trade, followed by colonialism and later, neocolonialism.

Hitherto, our African Indigenous Sports have never been taught or played in Our Schools under a bonafide approval. In fact, school authorities who were interested in our traditional  sports did so on their individual private life. They were not even free or bold enough to openly promote teaching or playing of our indigenous sports in schools. So, the approval of these sports could be seen as one of the ways of promoting the new African Renaissance which President Olusegun Obasanjo and African Heads of States enunciated during his tenure in African Union. I believe it is a very good step, “TAKEN IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.” There was a good follow up. A booklet on harmonized rules and regulations of the four traditional/indigenous sports was published and copies distributed to states ministries of education and some organizations related to sports and educational organizations.

Alas: two mishaps hit this steady progress that our indigenous sports were making.

*The Minister, Prof. Babalola Borishade had to leave Ministry of Education at the end of his 1st term and was not returned there.

*The President of traditional Sports Federation of Nigeria (2001/2005) Mallam Elias Yusuf who was a great motivator, proponent and advocate of traditional sports in that line of thought did not get the chance to take part for his re-election for second term in office.



Just before these two mishaps, the steady progress in getting our traditional sports to be fully actualized in our schools had reached the level of planning for Train-The-Trainers on them in our schools.

The Train-The Trainers was to involve training of Sports Masters selected from Federal Government Colleges, State Secondary Schools and other stakeholders in promotion of traditional sports in our schools. The Train-The-Trainers got Stuck. So our traditional sports got stuck again.

Should that be?

No, that should not be and it will not be. Our traditional sports should rise and come to life in our schools. This is more so, as Nigeria took three African traditional sports to the 8th All Africa Games as demonstration events. Nigeria is leader in initiating and promoting the African Renaissance. We were promoting the Heart of Africa Project, it can be said as we said at The 8th All African Games 2003 that ALL AFRICAN GAMES IS NOT COMPLETE WITHIOUT AFRICAN INDIGENOUS SPORTS; so also, the HEART OF AFRICA PROJECT SHOULD NOT BE COMPLETE WITHOUT PROMOTING AFRICAN INDIGENOUS SPORTS and especially in our schools.

If our indigenous sports are taught and played in our schools, they will not go into extinction, they will be propagated in the right way and that will be the basis of spreading them in our continent and outside our continent and that will be the beginning of promoting them to the Olympic Games in the near future. It is the right avenue to promote our sports among foreign nationals in the countries inside our continent. Our indigenes who are well educated and trained in our indigenous sport will also spread them when they go outside our countries and outside our continent and through our bilateral agreements.

The essence of promoting our indigenous sports now, is more challenging than ever before in view of the importance of sports to the world development now.

It should be noted that this millennium is going to eventually be proclaimed as SPORTS MILLENIUM. This is going to be so when computer and machines eventually take ‘all’ the jobs away from man.

It is sports that will be the main occupier of man’s time. It is the sports that will keep the human race useful and the culture-based sports will be very relevant.

It is now time to overcome the two mishaps and we move forward to promote our traditional sports in our schools.

The Federal Ministry of Education should set a good example for the African countries in promoting our traditional/indigenous sports through our school curriculum. The planned Train-The-Trainers project should come to life now, as Shakespeares says: “in delay, there lies no plenty.”

We must be proud of our indigenous sports. We cannot continue to remain mere consumers of other peoples sports and we leave our own undeveloped. Aggey said: “I am proud of my colour; he who is not proud of his colour is not fit to live.” James Brown went further; SAY IT LOUD, I AM BLACK AND PROUD; SAY IT LOUD, I AM BLACK AND PROUD!



Yes I am very proud of our African traditional sports.

Please let us; go through this poem:


Safe our African indigenous sports

Savor our African indigenous sports

Recover them from perdition,

Rescue them from extinction,

Propagate them in our institutions,

Promote them to global distinction.


Our past, vividly shows that we were not brought up in our schools to be proud of our traditional sports. The question is, should that continue? Now is time to turn around the fortunes and the fun embedded in our African indigenous sports, especially in our schools-kindergarten, primary, secondary and tertiary. For your information Traditional Sports Federation of Nigeria (TSFN) is producing 21 gold, on the medal table from five (5) traditional sports; namely Abula, Ayo, Dambe, Kokawa and Langa at the biennial National Sports Festival in Nigeria and I am told that some Southern African countries have good programmes on their traditional/indigenous sports. Some East African countries and the West African counties too are doing quite well in promoting traditional sports. However Nigeria; took the bull by the horn as done at the 8th All African Games Abuja 2003 and went ahead to demonstrates African Traditional Sports at the 8th All Africa Games for the first time in the history of the Games. This is one of the ways of institutionalizing our indigenous sports in our African Institutions, schools, stadia, recreational grounds, parks, hotels, open spaces and so on. Africa wake up! Nigeria wakeup!! Federal and State Ministries of Education wake up!!! Wake up to promote African indigenous sports in our schools. We in Afrotradosports hereby use this forum to pay tribute to the departed Prof. Babalola Borishade as one of those who made major contribution to African Traditional Sports progress through Nigeria. He is hereby declared “ONE OF THE FOUR TRADITIONAL SPORTS FRIENDLY MINISTERS IN NIGERIA”. He presided over the 48th session of National Council on Education that approved Traditional Sports in Nigeria to be in the National School Curriculum under President Olusegun Obasanjo.

A write-up is coming, on the four Traditional Sports Friendly Ministers in Nigeria very soon.

Thank you for reading this piece. It is an act of patriotism to sport world wide.


Mallam Elias Yusuf.      



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