Football was first introduced to Nigeria by the British at the start of the twentieth century.
The first recorded football match in Nigeria was in 1904.
By 1950, football had became the national game of the country.
During this time in African history, many nations began to partake in nationalist movements where they protested colonial power. In Nigeria, football gave citizens a sense of national pride and inspired them to achieve political freedom.
An individual named Nnamdi Azikiwe played a critical role in helping Nigeria achieve its freedom from Britain.
Peter Alegi, associate professor of history at Michigan State University, states, “Nnamdi Azikiwe emerged as a key figure connecting sports and politics in the late colonial period” (37).
Throughout his life, Azikiwe was angered by the racism and racial segregation that existed in sports.
There were two particular events in his life that motivated him to finally take action. The first event was when “he was denied the opportunity to compete in a track-and-field event at the 1934 Empire Games because Nigeria was not allowed to participate” (Alegi 39).
The second event was when his application to join a tennis club in Lagos was rejected because of his Igbo background.
These events resulted in Azikiwe creating the Zik’s Athletic Club (ZAC) in Lagos in April of 1938. This sports club had facilities and equipment for many sports such as football, boxing, and tennis.
The club quickly became a symbol of African self-determination and nationalism in Nigeria.
Throughout the course of World War II, Azikiwe continuously criticized the British for fighting in a war for democracy, yet at the same time, oppress Africans from self-determination.
To spread his ideas and popularize the game of football, Azikiwe went on numerous tours across Nigeria during the war. He also established a nationalist newspaper, the West African Pilot, in 1937. This newspaper popularized the game of football in Nigeria and made it a crucial aspect of the nation’s identity.
It helped establish a greater sense of community within Nigeria and developed pan-African sentiments. The paper also played a critical role in raising attention about social consciousness.
Through its coverage of football, the Pilot was able to achieve its mission. By the end of the war, football had become a cornerstone of Nigeria’s identity. On October 1, 1960, Nigeria finally gained its independence from Britain.
This year also saw Nigeria become a member of FIFA.
Nnamdi Azikiwe went on to become the first President of Nigeria in 1963.
Copyright @Sports247 @Pereiraoluwabimpe