In this post we will be looking at The History of Football in Nigeria, when did Nigeria join FIFA and who introduced football in Nigeria and what year.



Nigeria first appeared in the Africa Cup of Nations in 1963, when they were drawn in a group with Sudan, and the then United Arab Republic. They did not advance to the next stage. The team’s first major success was a gold medal in the 2nd All-Africa games, with 3rd-place finishes in the 1976 and 1978 African Cup of Nations to follow. In 1980, with players such as Segun Odegbami and Best Ogedegbe, the team, led by Christian Chukwu, won the Cup for the first time in Lagos. Nigeria Olympic men’s football team won the football event at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, beating Mexico, Brazil and Argentina in the process. They were runners-up in the same event at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, losing to Argentina in a rematch of the 1996 Final of the event. In 1984,1988 and 2000, Nigeria reached the Cup of Nations final, losing to Cameroon. Three of the five African titles won by Cameroon have been won by defeating Nigeria. Missing out to Cameroon on many occasions has created an intense rivalry between both nations. Three notable occasions; narrowly losing out in the 1988 African Cup of Nations, qualifiers for the 1990 World Cup, and then the controversial final of the 2000 African Cup of Nations where a kick taken by Victor Ikpeba during the penalty shoot-out was adjudged not to have crossed the goal-line by the referee. The team withdrew from two African Cup of Nations between 1963 and 1974, due to political instability. In 1976, they came back to the Cup of Nations with third-place finishes in both the 1976 and 1978 Africa cup of Nations.



The Nigeria national football team competes regularly for international titles and many Nigerian footballers compete in Europe, particularly in England. Nigeria has one of the finest national teams in Africa and has produced many notable footballers including Mudashiru Lawal, Rashidi Yekini, Jay Jay Okocha, Nwankwo Kanu, Vincent Enyeama, Joseph Yobo and Mikel John Obi.  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 become 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 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.



The Nigeria Football Federation (formerly known as Nigeria Football Association until 2008) is Nigeria’s football governing body. It was formally launched in 1945 and formed the first Nigerian national football team in 1949. It joined CAF in 1959 and FIFA in 1960. The NFF headquarters is located in the city of Abuja. As of 2008 it organizes three leagues: The Nigerian Premier League, the Amateur League and the Women’s League, and five competitions, including the Federation Cup and Women’s Cup. The next Election is slated for 2022. The Nigeria national football team represents Nigeria in men’s international football. Governed by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), they are three-time Africa Cup of Nations winners, with their most recent title in 2013. In April 1994, the Nigerian national football team was ranked 5th in the FIFA rankings, the highest FIFA ranking position ever achieved by an African football team. Throughout history, the team has qualified for six of the last eight FIFA World Cups, missing only the 2006 edition and 2022 edition. They have reached the round of 16 on three occasions. Their first World Cup appearance was the 1994 edition. The team represents FIFA and Confederation of African Football (CAF). The national football team of Nigeria is also known as the Super Eagles. This football team represents Nigeria in international football tournaments and is controlled by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF). The Super Eagles are three-time Africa Cup of Nations winners with their last title in 2013, after defeating Burkina Faso in the final. The team reached its peak in April 1994 when it was ranked 5th in the FIFA rankings. This was the highest FIFA ranking position ever achieved by an African football team. The team has been involved in six of the last seven FIFA World Cups (as of 2018), missing only the 2006 World Cup hosted in Germany, and have reached the round of 16 three times. The team reached its peak in April 1994 when it was ranked 5th in the FIFA rankings. This was the highest FIFA ranking position ever achieved by an African football team. The team has been involved in six of the last seven FIFA World Cups (as of 2018), missing only the 2006 World Cup hosted in Germany, and have reached the round of 16 three times.



Nigeria was once a colony of Britain in the early years of the 20th century. Colonization may have brought changes in Nigerian culture, both good and bad, but it also propelled them to industrial and agricultural progress. More so, they were also introduced to other forms of entertainment. Although they were introduced to a lot of sports, it is undeniable that football became the most popular one. The reason behind this is the fact that it can be played by a lot of players with just one ball. Its game objective was also easy to understand. Early records say that the first-ever played football match in Nigeria was a game between Hope Waddell Training Institution and the crew of the British gunboat HMS Thistle. This match was won by the Nigerians with a final score of 3-2 was held in June 1904. Two years later, football clubs started to be formed in Nigeria. Football is the most popular sport in Nigeria. In 1932, the country had its first football association. This was called the Lagos District Amateur Football Association (LDAFA). In 1945, the Nigerian Football Association (NFA) was launched. Today, this association is the national governing body of the sport. The following year, the sport became the national sport in the country. It was declared as the national sport since it gave citizens a sense of national pride. In some way, the sport also became an inspiration to achieve political freedom. A man named Nnamdi Azikiwe established his own athletic club in 1938 to stand against racism in the sport. His club, the Zik’s Athletic Club (ZAC) became a symbol of self-determination and nationalism in the country. Azikiwe popularized football and made it a part of the country’s national identity. He succeeded in his mission with his football coverage despite the ongoing Second World War. By the end of the war, football became a huge part of Nigerian culture. In October 1960, Nigeria gained independence from Britain. That same year, Nigeria also became an official member of Fédération Internationale de Football Association or FIFA, the world’s governing association for football. With the undeniable impact of Azikiwe, he became the first Nigerian president in 1963.





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