The Role of Sports in Nigeria’s International Image

Role of sports in Nigeria's international image
Written by Omolola Akinyemi

Sports remains one of the most effective tools for building and promoting international relations and cooperation between countries. It is quite clear that the role of sports in Nigeria’s international image cannot be underestimated. It goes beyond merely winning medals and laurels. And it is not just for entertainment and advertising promotion. In particular, sports have become a unifying activity across Africa and the globe. 


How then can we describe the role of sports in Nigeria’s international image? We are curious to investigate the Nigerian experience, and how sports may potentially enhance the image of the country before other nations.

A Bonding Mechanism

Around the world (just as in Nigeria), sports have become an active part of people’s lives. People watch, discuss, enjoy, and partake in sports – they even take it to fanatical levels. Sports is one event that randomly brings people of diverse backgrounds, ages, cultures, races, social statuses, or gender together. Thus, it has become a tool for enforcing social equity and inclusion. 

In a culturally diverse nation like Nigeria, sporting activity has inadvertently made people ignore their differences and come together. Thus Nigerians can easily celebrate victories, share unfavorable moments, and empathize with one another. They can bond on the basis of mutual fanaticism – by supporting similar clubs and criticizing opponent clubs without meaningless beef. 

Indeed, across all the major sporting activities in Nigeria, virtually every team or club has diverse tribal representation. The Nigerian national football team has members from different Nigerian tribes. The same can be said of the Nigerian contingent representing the country in each of the sports teams. Athletics, basketball, volleyball, name it. They all represent Nigeria, they are Nigeria’s ambassadors as a team in each case. Their collective victories and losses proudly belong to the Nigerian nation, without discriminating against anyone. 

In the same fashion – when country representatives come together for major sporting events, they must reside together in one game village. Be it national, regional, continental, Commonwealth, Olympics, or any other sports competition. Athletes compete with one another on level ground and must obey the same rules without discrimination. 

Thus as Nigerians, we learn to coexist with other nations in peace and harmony through such major sports encounters. Nigeria sports athletes are mandated to respect the sovereignty and uniqueness of other nations while promoting the image of their own country. It is noteworthy that sports have grown to heal generational wounds that stemmed from inter-tribal, inter-racial, or international wars and rivalry. 

The National Sports Festival (established in 1973) is a typical example. It was set up as a veritable tool for healing the nation from the fallouts of the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-1970.  Similarly, the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics have unified nations that hitherto had little or no interaction. The Commonwealth Games brought former colonies of Britain together, opening new channels of international relations, trade, and cooperation.

While the Olympic Games celebrates and rewards exceptional sportsmanship in diverse individuals, from all member nations across the world. Particularly following the events of the two World Wars. The Olympic Games also became a wise option for opening doors for restitution, recovery, and promotion of global understanding and interrelations.  

Income Potential and Personal Development

Sport is an avenue to develop and showcase an individual’s athletic skills, thus rewarding them through competitive sports. There are many talented persons from diverse backgrounds who are skilled sportsmen and sportswomen in one activity or another. On its own, sports has exposed Nigeria to the world as a fertile ground for sports geniuses. Yet another role of sports in Nigeria’s international image, which is commendable. 

These individuals may be disadvantaged back home because of economic, political, or socio-cultural challenges. They may not have been well exposed to opportunities to earn and blossom from their sporting ingenuity in their home countries. But laid bare before such persons, is the opportunity to reveal their talents on the international scene, attract sponsors and sign deals. Many select Nigerians now earn very huge incomes; and have come out of poverty for life through sports. 

It is globally recognized today that some of the richest people on Earth are sportsmen and women. Exceptional footballers have come out of poor Nigerian homes, and are now rich for life. Boxers, basketball players, and track and field athletes who are now global celebrities – a good number of them are Nigerians. The likes of Jude Ighalo. Kelechi Iheanacho, Asisat Osoala, Kanu Nwankwo, Anthony Joshua, Israel Adesanya, and Hakeem Olajuwon are clear examples. 

Infrastructural and Economic Development

One valuable role of sports in Nigeria’s international image is in revealing itself as a tool for infrastructural and economic development. Sports has attracted financial support from world and regional sports bodies to Nigeria and its athletes. For instance, Federation International Football Association (FIFA) and International Olympics Committee (IOC) are active in providing financial support and sports equipment to member nations. Nigeria is a beneficiary of such largesse in recent times (check the highlighted links).

And sports create a perfect opportunity to improve our stand before the global community, by providing suitable hosting locations for international sports events. We make reference to hosting such international events as the Olympic games, FIFA tournaments, and AFCON games. Meanwhile, tourists make their way from such sports events to view other curious sites around the country. In essence, promoting tourism through sports holds great potential for Nigeria.

In Conclusion

The potential of sports to position Nigeria before the world as a respected nation must never be ignored. It must rather be carefully cultivated. Not should Nigeria ignore the welfare of any of its hard-working athletes; they are the zealous ambassadors of the nation. Sports can redeem the image of Nigeria before the global community, far above whatever damage its internal struggles may have caused. That is of course, if the Nigerian government sets out to do so.


You may not republish, reproduce, or redistribute any content on this website either in whole or in part without due permission or acknowledgment.
Proper acknowledgment includes, but not limited to;

(a) LINK BACK TO THE ARTICLE in the case of re-publication on online media,

(b) Proper referencing in the case of usage in research, magazine, brochure, or academic purposes,.
All contents are protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1996 (DMCA).

The images, except where otherwise indicated, are taken directly from the web, if some images were inserted by mistake violating the copyright, please contact the administrator for immediate removal.

We publish all content with good intentions. If you own this content & believe your copyright was violated or infringed, please contact us at [] for immediate removal.

About the author

Omolola Akinyemi

A Computer Science graduate of UNILAG, I hail from Ekiti state of Nigeria. An astute teacher, learner & admin assistant of many years experience. I love technology, innovation, and Nature. A problem solving mentality is important to me. The future is only seconds away, and I believe I can define the future now. You can also.