Traditional Sports in West Africa

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In today’s Physical and Health Education class, we will be learning about Traditional Sports in West Africa

Traditional Sports in West Africa

Sports are considered to be as old as humanity itself. So, every region is known for its various sports, to consider as a way of uniting and building peace among themselves. West Africa is no exception as it has its own traditional forms of sports events rooted in its culture and tradition.

Here are some of the recognised traditional sports in West Africa. 

  • Abula


Abula is very close to modern volleyball. There are eight players in each one, four from every side. The rest of the team members are waiting on a bench to substitute their teammates. But there is a main distinction between volleyball and Abula. In volleyball, players must use their hands to hit the ball, but in Abula, players need a wooden bat to do it. The winner is the team which gets the highest points.

  • Ayo


Ayo is a Yoruba board game. This game has become very popular in many African countries, not only in Nigeria. To play this game you should be very clever, quick and nimble. The game usually requires two dexterous players who are trying to get more seeds. There are twelve holes in the game: six ones on each of the sides. Every hole in its turn contains four seeds. The size of the board is 0.8m to 1.2m. The players are allowed to act for thirty seconds. The anticlockwise format is applied. The one who gets more seeds than the opponent does, will be the winner.

  • Dambe Boxing

traditional sports in west africa

It’s an ancient form of boxing with ties to the Hausa people of northern Nigeria who traveled to different villages at harvest time and challenged those of the butcher class to a brawl, providing festival entertainment. The contestant’s goal is to strike his opponent with punches and kicks until he drops to the floor, known as “killing,” over the course of three rounds. 

  • Senegalese Wrestling

traditional sports in west africa

This sport dates back a century and began as recreation for fisherman and farmers. Today, top-tier fighters can get as much as $100,000 per match, and it rivals football (soccer) in popularity.

  • Kokawa (Wrestling)

traditional physical education sports

This is a traditional kind of wrestling. This has a close relationship with Nigerian sports and it is connected to the traditional rules and customs.

Kokawa is done to serve as a pass for agreeing for a man to have a hand in marrying a woman. Here if a man sees a lady and he is interested or wants to ask for her hand in marriage, a day will be set aside for the two interested strong men to engage themselves in Kokawa (Wrestling) and whoever wins will be given the lady to marry. This only takes place during festive periods.

Here, the men battle in a circle to determine the strongest and who gets the lady to marry. However, the circle is six meters wide and whoever steps out of the circle is considered defeated. 

The fight, therefore, comes in different categories. Where there are always three rounds of the fight.

In summary, West Africa traditional sports which includes Ayo, Dambe, Abula, Kokawa, Senegalese wrestling and others are sports activities that has been and continues to be enjoyed by Nigerians. 



How many traditional sports activities were taught in today’s class? List them and explain two of them.


Reading Assignment

Explain two reasons why people participate in traditional sports.


Weekend Assignment

List any five sports activities carried out by people in your locality.


We hope you enjoyed today’s class. In our next class, we will be talking about  Modern Sports in West Africa.

Let us know your thoughts and questions in the comment section, and we will attend to them as fast as we can.

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