At the beginning of every new year of the Gregorian calendar, the tradition of wishing ourselves “Happy New Year” is a permanent tradition in our own society in Nigeria, here in Africa. It is spontaneous, automatic, pandemic and even somehow mandatory to wish all your people “happy new year” especially on the first day of the year and up to the end of the first month of the new year.
Closely related to this, is making new year resolutions i.e you resolve on your own volition, that you would do or not do certain things in the new year as a means of correcting the past misdeeds, misdeminous, failures, or even mistakes of the just out gone year or that of several years as the case may be.
The Gregorian year which we have just entered into, is 2020. This figure connotes, that the year is the beginning of a new decade. And “decades” have become working “tools” in planning and executing plans in this modern era. It is a very popular periodic benchmark of measuring progress of plans over the years.
Probably, the most popular beginning of a new decade was the year 2000 which was also the beginning of a new millennium followed by 2010 and this 2020 year.
So for this, www.afrotradosports.com is now going for a prayerful wish and resolution for African Indigenous Traditional Sports and Games by saying MAY AFRICAN TRADITIONAL SPORTS AND GAMES RECORD WONDERFUL BREAK THROUGHS IN THIS 2020 – 2030 DECADE, amen. Yes, now we have put God first and I know it is not that we have prayed, then the task we now do itself. No, far from it. The prayer is like our theme; our vision and our mission towards achieving this goal for this new decade as embedded in our prayer.
We started the process of promoting African Traditional Sports, running to over three decades now. In the year 2000, Nigeria participated in the 3rd World Festival of Traditional Sports organized by TAFISA in Hannover Germany. Nigeria’s delegation was from Sport for All Nigeria, an affiliate of Nigeria Olympic Committee that relates to the International Olympic Committee. The team was made up of eleven members who presented Nigerian dances at the festivals. A few other African countries that participated did not present anything spectacular or as distinct as Nigeria’s presentation. Nigeria would had participated at the second World Festival of Traditional Sports hosted by Thailand in Bankcock in 1996 but for lack of sponsors as Sport for All Nigeria gave the opportunity to Nigerian Association of Traditional Sports (NATS) to handle, but NATS could not secure sponsors for the trip. In the 1990s. Traditional Sports in Nigeria were promoted by three different distinct groups without disturbing each other. They were:
- The Federal Ministry of Education which organized the first National Seminar on Traditional Sports in Nigeria with the theme: Popularising Nigerian Indigenous Games in Nigerian Schools (1993) and National Committee Workshop setting and harmonizing Rules and Regulations to guide the teaching and playing of Traditional Sports in all Educational Institutions in Nigeria. Then the National Council on Education (NCE), approved Traditional Sports for the National School Curriculum (2001) in Nigeria.
- The Sport for All Nigeria (SFAN) group which secured three International Olympic Committee patronages for different Traditional Sports events in Nigeria.
- Abula Ball Game in 1994
- National Traditional Sports Festival (1998)
- Trado/Cultural Sports Carnival, (2003) and
SFAN also attended the 3rd World Festival of Traditional Sports which dovetailed into Expo 2000 in Hannover Germany, then the 4th and 5th editions in Busan, Korea (2008) and Siaullai, Lithuania (2012).
- The Nigerian Association of Traditional Sports (NATS) which was inaugurated as a National Sports Association (on Traditional Sports) by the National Sports Commission in Nigeria (1993), organized the first National Traditional Sports and Games Festival in Nigeria in 1994. When it later transformed to Traditional Sports Federation of Nigeria (TSFN) in 2002, she became the first Sports Federation in Africa to demonstrate Africa Indigenous Sports at the All Africa Games since the inception of the All Africa Games in Congo in 1965. The demonstration of African Traditional Sports at the 8th All African Games in Abuja 2003 had this evolutionary slogan: All Africa Games is not complete without African Indigenous Sports.
The Traditional Sports Federation of Nigeria (TSFN) presented Abula Game, Ayo, Dambe and Kokawa to COJA for the demonstration. However, a para game which was also invented in Nigeria had to be added, so the sports actually demonstrated were: Ayo, Dambe, Kokawa and Para Soccer. That made Nigeria to be the first country to demonstrate Africa Indigenous Sports at the All Africa Games. Nigeria equally seized the opportunity to organize a continental conference at the 8th All Africa Games for the Formation of Confederation of African Indigenous Sports (CONAIS) but some intrigues did not allow the confederation to function.
The demonstration done in 2003 supposed to have been followed up at Algiers 2007, alas! it was not. However, there was another demonstration of African Traditional Sports at the All Africa Games in Congo. The two sports demonstrated were Nzango and Pharaoh Boxing by Congo and Egypt respectively (2015).
Alas! again, at Morocco (2019) no African Sports participated at the African Games. Alas! none was demonstrated anew and none of those earlier demonstrated featured. That’s the disjointed promotion of African Traditional Sports at the All Africa Games. Should it continue like that?
However, there have been some regional championships or invitational championships in which some countries have become very popular for. Foremost is the Dakar Wrestlings, EKOWAS Games, Niamey, Garbon Wrestlings. Other parts of Africa have their isolated championships in the last three decades in trying to promote African Traditional Indigenous Sports and Games locally.
Between 2001 – 2005, there was a serious articulate preparation to host first African Festival of Traditional Sports in Lagos Nigeria. This did not pull through too. There were practicing of our African Indigenous Sports in isolated, unrefined and not the desired level of inspirational celebrations in the countries that have them to the expectations of this modern era.
In this new decade of 2020 – 2030, these are some of the main problems to tackle on and to resolve in favour of African Traditional indigenous Sports.
Some of the Main Problems of African Traditional Indigenous Sports and Games:
- Not being in the Olympic Games
- Not being in the Commonwealth Games
- Not being in All Africa Games
- Not being organized as a World Cup e.g Abula World Cup, African Billiards World Cup, Ayo World Cup, Langa World Cup, Nzango World Cup, Pharaoh Boxing World Cup etc.
- Not in many National Sports Festivals in the individual countries
- Not being played in the schools of their countries of origin
- Not in the national school curriculum of the Education Systems of the African Countries
- The universities do not show interest in them at all (no experts)
- No facilities for them in their countries of origin
- They have been suffering from perdition since the advent of slave trade, colonialism, neocolonialism and now at the verge of extinction and in fact, some have probably gone on extinction against the value enunciated by UNESCO tagged “Verona declaration of promotion of Traditional Sports in schools” (2015).
- Being ignored by Governments
- Being rejected because of crude/poor presentation as in the binocular of neocolonialism
- Being sidelined by power of foreign sports through colonialists
- Not very accessible to the youths
- Electricity has electrocuted those of them done under the moonlight.
- Lack of written materials on African Traditional Sports
- Written History of African Traditional Sports, no encyclopedia on them as on Western Sports
- Since universities are not involved, no modern researches on them.
- Hardly used in African films
- No teachers, that will teach children on Traditional Sports
- Specialized coaches that will train athletes
- Training of coaches i.e train the trainers.
- Making the sports attractive with money in it.
- Waiting indefinitely etc.
What is Africa waiting for in promoting her African Traditional Sports? May be
- Foreign investors
- Foreign sponsors
- Foreign rules and regulations
- Foreign motivators
- Foreign instructors
- Foreign equipment
- Foreign facilities
- Foreign coaches
- Foreign Technical Advisers
- Foreign Designers
- Foreign Media etc.
Waiting! is Africa actually waiting?
No, Africa is virtually starting to wake up from a deep slumber on African Traditional Sports. The mindset of our current elite leaders in Africa has started transiting from neocolonialism of only eagering to collect medals from flagship sports championships into contributing medals in the new Africa initiatives. “Henceforth, equal energy would be spent on the development of our traditional sports and the alien sports” (Chief Alex Akinyele, 1993). As we collect medals, so also we should contribute medals. That should be the spirit and goal of 2020-2030 decade. So in this new decade, Africa should now work to produce gold medals as well as to collect gold medals. It should be symbiotic.
May be, it is not too wrong to postulate that Africa needs to develop her traditional indigenous sports and games so that she will develop very well like the other continents of the world.
It should be noted that for the past three to four decades when attention started on waking up African traditional sports and Games, a good number of the sports that gained some attention are just crawling. They are yet to stand up and walk not to talk of running or flying. For the sports to rise up and fly, deafening campaigns and very deliberate and determined efforts on the paths of the leaders in Africa to effect such efforts that will ensure terrific progress for African Traditional Indigenous Sports through flagship projects and championships in this 2020 – 2030 decade should be put in place now.
May African Traditional Sports and Games record wonderful breakthroughs in this 2020 – 2030 decade, amen.
Happy New Year,
Better New Decade
For all of us and,
Sports and Games
Mallam Elias Yusuf