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Randy Norriss

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Many countries count it as a big part of their culture. When people mention football, they either think of Brazil, the Country of Football, or the United Kingdom, the game’s place of origin. For Nigerians, football is a sport that unites them.

The Introduction of the Game Football originated in the country in a similar manner to how the game started in many countries. Nigeria was one of the colonies of Great Britain. Expats and soldiers brought the game football sometime in the 20th century as a recreational activity. The first official match of football was held in 1904.

How Football Was Linked to Nigerian’s National Pride Football wasn’t the only sport introduced in Nigeria. There were others such as tennis, track and field, and boxing. Football was more popular because it is a team sport where unity is a key factor of success and fun. It is symbolic of the Nigerian people’s development of self-identity.

Before football became the most popular sport that people bet on sportsbooks like with bitcoins, Nigerians didn’t have much luck in participating in sports. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who would become Nigeria’s president in 1963-1966, is credited for football’s popularity in the country.

Azikiwe is a victim of discrimination in his youth. He couldn’t get an opportunity to join the track and field in the 1934 Empire Games because Nigerians were not allowed to play. He tried to apply for the tennis club in Lagos but he was rejected for having an Igbo background.

Azikiwe became an activist for Nigerian’s self-determination and he used sports as his platform. He established the West African Pilot in 1937. It is a national newspaper company that features football as a sport and recreational activity shared by Nigerians, rather than focusing on the British. He then established Zik’s Athletic Club (ZAC) in 1938. It is a training facility that is fully equipped for boxing, football, and tennis that welcomes Nigerians.

Development of Football Throughout World War II World War II broke out in 1939 but the West African Pilot and ZAC continued to inspire Nigerians’ self-identity through football. One of Azikiwe’s platforms was to criticize the British as they fight for democracy against the Axis Powers yet deny the Nigerians self-determination.

The West African Pilot was effective at covering football events that happened throughout World War II. By the end of the war in 1945, the Nigerians had embraced football as an important part of their identity.

Continued Popularity of Football Football continued to grow in popularity in Nigeria after the war. Five years later, it became the country’s national sport in 1950. Nigeria finally gained independence on 1st October 1960 and Azikiwe became the country’s president three years later. The Nigerian Professional Football League was founded in 1972. It went through many name changes over the years until it is known today as NPFL.

Sports betting began in the country around 2009 when Oloye Akin Alabi introduced NairaBet. It greatly helped support Nigeria’s local sports industry as well as finance. When cryptocurrency became a large industry in Nigeria, the country also welcomed betting on sites like with bitcoins. Nigeria is now a recognizable country in the industry of football with many athletes playing in a variety of teams across Africa and Europe.

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