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Training Institutes  |  Nigeria in World Sports  |  Olympic Games  |  The 1996 Atlanta Olympics   |  Professional Champions  |  Football

Nigerians are sports loving people who even in early times devoted themselves to such sports of wrestling, archery, hunting, racing, swimming, boat regattas, acrobatic displays etc. In colonial times primary school children gathered annually throughout the country in towns and city fields on Empire Day (May 24) for sporting events such as 100 yards and relay races for both boys and girls. Other games engaged in during Empire Day competition were sack race, lime and spoon race and threading the needle. Shields and cups were won as prizes during these events.

Today there is a new dimension to sports in Nigeria with emphasis not only on the physical and mental development but also financial encouragement from government for individual sportsmen and women.

Participation in modern sports, which was formerly limited to units of Armed Forces and Teachers' Colleges, widened by 1933 with the introduction of the Cier cup and the "Hussey Shield" competition for secondary schools. Other trophies introduced to be competed for were the 'Morocco' cup for Cricket and the 'Adebayo Manuwa' cup for football. By 1944, the Amateur Athletic Association of Nigeria (AAN) came into existence, basically to coordinate athletic organisation in the country

Sports Development:

Today, the general recognition of the importance of sports has made it to become a vehicle for promoting national unity and projecting the country's image. This has brought about healthy rivalry among all the states of the Federation and helped to project the country's image beyond her borders.

There are various sporting arenas in the country. Apart from the multi-million naira National Sports Stadium in Surulere, Lagos often referred to as sports city, and recently the =N=30billion Abuja National Stadium commissioned in 2003. There are other stadia of international standards in the country. They are: Liberty Stadium, Ibadan. Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Kaduna. Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu. Tafawa Balewa Stadium, Bauchi. Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin. Liberation Stadium, Port Harcourt. Makurdi Stadium, Makurdi. and Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos which is almost completed.

The main reason for the priority given to the provision of Sporting facilities is to ensure that Nigerian Sportsmen and women have reasonable opportunities to develop their skills and gain greater confidence in competitive sporting activities. Also it is in line with the nation's aim to be at the forefront always with better facilities. Encouragement is also given to all forms of National intrastate and inter-state competitions as a spring board for higher performance at international competitions.

Foreign technical experts are employed on contract to train Nigerian coaches. Nigerian coaches are also sent to recognized sports institutions abroad like Brazil, United Kingdom and Germany, etc to improve on their skills.

Training Institutes:

As part of the policy of training Nigerians to man every aspect of sports in the country, the government established a National Institute of Sports (NIS) at the National Stadium Complex, Surulere, Lagos for the training of sports administrators, coaches, sports broadcasters and sport medical specialists. A sports clinic with first aid facilities and ambulance is also attached to the Institute.

Nigeria in World Sports:

Nigeria's first participation in international sports was in the British Empire games of 1950 in Auckland, New Zealand. Since then Nigeria has participated in almost every Commonwealth games where she has won many laurels.

The first among these laurels include a silver medal in the high jump event won by J.O. Majekodunmi in 1950 and a Gold Medal four years later won by Emmanuel Ifeajuna during the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver Canada. In subsequent Commonwealth Games, Nigeria has produced many medalists in different events. These medalists include Innocent Egbunike, Chidi Imo, Joe Orewa, Jerry Okorodudu, David Dafiagbon, Mary Onyali, Fatima Yusuf, Falilat Ogunkoya, Kuburat Owolabi, Atanda Musa, Olawunmi Majekodunmi etc.  

Olympic Games:

At the Olympic level, Nigeria's first participation was in 1952 in Helsinki, Finland. Since then Nigeria has also participated in almost all Olympic games where some of her sportsmen and women have proved to be among the very best by winning Olympic medals. Such medal winners include Peter Konyegwachie who won silver in boxing in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Others include David Inzonrite and Richard Ibinegu who won Silver and bronze medals respectively in the Barcelona Olympic in 1992. In the same competition, Nigeria won the silver and bronze medal in the men's and women's 4 x 100 metres relay. The men's silver winning quartet included Olapade Adenekan, David Ezinwa, Kayode Oluyemi and Chidi Imo. The women's bronze winning quartet included Mary Onyali, Beatrice Utondo, Faith Idehen and Charity Opara Thompson.

The 1996 Atlanta Olympics :

The 1996 Olympic was the best for Nigeria so far in the history of the Olympics. Nigeria won her first Olympic Gold medals in that edition; first in the women's long jump event won by Chioma Ajunwa and the men football gold won by the country's football team. In achieving this feat, Nigeria became the first African country to win the coveted Olympic gold medal in football. Other medals won by Nigeria in the Atlanta Olympics include a bronze in the women's 200 metres event won by Mary Onyali and the women's 400 metres event won by Falilat Ogunkoya.

Professional Champions:

At professional sporting level Nigeria has produced world professional champions in different sports. These include Hogan Kid Bassey, featherweight champion (1957-1959), Dick Ihetu Tiger, middleweight champion (1962-1963), Bashiru Ali, cruiserweight (1987), all in boxing. Other star professional sports performers include Akeem (the dream) Olajuwon in basketball, Atanda Musa in table tennis amongst others.  

Football:

The history of Nigeria football dates back to 1800AD. The formation of clubs started by 1906. The Nigerian Football association (NFA) was formed on 21 August, 1933. The first organised football Association was the Lagos District Amateur Football Association (LDAFA) established in 1932. Ibadan Football Association followed with it's formation in 1937. In 1945, Sir Arthur Richard donated a cup for competition among the clubs in Nigeria. This was called the Governor's cup which later became the challenge cup. In the same year; 1945, the Nigeria Amateur Football Association was formed. The first Nigeria National team known as the 1949 UK Tourist played their first international match in 1949 in the United Kingdom. In 1959, the NFA was affiliated to the International Football Federation (FIFA) and to the African Football Confederation (AFC) now (CAF). Mr. Godfrey Amachree was the Nigerian chairman of NFA.

Football is the most popular sport in Nigeria. Competitions are organised among primary, secondary schools, institutions of higher learning and amateur clubs. Industrial establishments in the country are also involved in the game. Several trophies are donated and competed for annually, but the most coveted is the 'Nigeria Challenge Cup', which is competed for yearly by all league clubs in the federation. The competition began in 1945 when it was known as the Governor's cup. Later it was renamed Football Association (FA) Cup in 1955 and Nigeria Challenge Cup in 1960, the year Nigeria attained independence.

There is also an annual league championship organised by the Nigerian Football Association (NFA). In 2000, the premiership league was introduced. The Industrial Investment Credit Corporation (IICC) Shooting Stars of Ibadan won the Africa cup winners cup contest in 1976. It was the first time Nigeria won the cup. The Rangers International Football Club, Enugu repeated the feat in 1977, while the Benue Cement Company (BCC) Lions Football Club of Gboko won the 1990 version of the cup, which has been renamed Mandela Cup after the South African legendary political hero, Dr. Nelson Mandela.  

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