8 Traditional African Sports That Should Be In the Olympics

African sport

Many African sports have survived through centuries. However, their structure and practice continue to evolve. This is often due to westernization. Today, there are lots of young Africans that are talented in traditional African sports. Indirectly, they are the custodians of these sports. Without the regular contests, these sports may have become extinct. 

The Olympics committee announced that they would be incorporating traditional games in the competitions—and many African sports qualify to be on their list. At the moment, Africans have a poor record at the Olympics. The reason is partly that the games are alien to Africans. However, adopting African sports as Olympic games will give them global recognition. Perhaps, when this happens, we won’t have to worry so much about their extinction. Below are some of the games that the Olympics committee should consider. 

#8 – Capoeira 

Capoeira is probably the most common African sport with its origin in Angola. Dance moves inspired by martial arts characterize this rather unusual sport. This sport can be performed by two or more ‘dancers’ in an enclosed area. Watching the performers move rhythmically makes you appreciate the power of mastery. Capoeira deserves a spot in the Olympics for several reasons. Top of the list is that many Africans widely revere it. Secondly, this game educates since it shows the liberation of African people from slavery in Brazil.

#7 – Dambe Boxing

African sport
Photo from Sunday Alamba on Flickr

Boxing games tend to attract a lot of attention, especially when it’s in a traditional setting. Dambe boxing is proof of this claim. Originally, this sport was played by the Hausa people of Northern Nigeria as a recreational activity. With time, it evolved and now is a much famous African sport. Boxers face each other in pairs and spar hard until one cannot continue, marking the opponent’s victory. During the fight, the fighters’ dominant arms are wrapped with a rope to provide more punch power. Given that this game is much similar to MMA cage fights, there is no reason it shouldn’t feature in the Olympics.

#6 – Senegalese Wrestling “Laamb” 

Laamb is an ancient wrestling game from Senegal that started as a recreational activity during harvesting periods. Furthermore, it resembles Dambe from Nigeria, only that wrapping arms with ropes is absent. Laamb takes place between two masculine men whose objectives is to throw the opponent to the ground by lifting him up and over, usually outside a given area. As a sporting activity that competes at the national level in Senegal, we feel that it would count as a great addition to the Olympics. It will surely add flavor and diversity to the Olympics. 

#5 – Ta Kurt Om El Mahag

Ta kurt om el mahag sport
Image source – luxafrique.net

Undeniably, Ta kurt om el mahag, is modern-day European baseball. If not, they must have derived inspiration from it. Nevertheless, Ta kurt om el mahag was widely played by the Berbers tribesmen from the Libyan desert. Like baseball, the game was played between two teams consisting of nine players who take turns playing defense and offense. Even though baseball was discontinued from the Olympics, Ta kurt om el mahag is one of the African sports that will make a great alternative. 

#4 – Nguni “Stick Fighting

Many African traditional sports appear to have an occasion tied to them, especially farming seasons. Nguni is a traditional sport from South Africa which was staged mostly by the Nguni herders. The game features two fighters who play defense and offense until one wins. Scoring for this game is usually rated by which body part is hit using the stick. The opponents perform several stances during the game, which lasts for up to five hours. When done in a controlled environment with defined rules, this game is entertaining to watch.

#3 – Donkey Racing

donkey racing african sport
Photo from hoaexp.com

Donkey racing is a popular sporting event that happens in the Kenyan coastal town, Lamu. It attracts huge crowds of people who come to cheer their favorite riders. Also, the sport is common during the fiesta of the annual Maulidi, thereby bringing the people together. The sport is played by a rider who hops on the back of a donkey and nudges it to run for the finish line as quickly as it can. As these animals are domesticated and used primarily as a means of transportation, they are adequately adapted for this African sport.

#2 – Savika (Bull Riding)

Among the Betsileo people of Madagascar, bull riding is a tradition they use to pass culture across generations. The game is a rite of passage that is meant to signal that a man is ready to be a responsible society member. The thrilling game participants need to be physically fit. This is because when an angry bull is released from a cage, they will attempt to hang on it for as long as possible. The winner is the one who manages to mount on the bull for the longest time. Interestingly, the prize is a bragging right, nothing more. 

#1 – Jukskei 

Jukskei is the name of a wooden pin that early Afrikaners used as an Ox’s yoke. It was from this premise that the sport Jukskei rose. The sport was played by attempting to knock off a stick planted on the ground with the Jukskei. Since it was formalized and rules are drawn, this African sport has gained popularity across the continent for its uniqueness. Teams of fours or pairs play this game. Jukskei is played at national levels under supervision by the International Jukskei Federation.

The way Forward for African Sports

After going through our list, you are probably wondering why some of these sports aren’t being played competitively yet. Here is the thing, most traditional African sports lack a definite structure. This means no specific rules of the games, no tournaments, awards, or training. In the absence of these, the game loses its flair and attraction.

Thankfully, that is changing. Some African governments are now putting their weight behind traditional games. With better funding, the custodians of these games can develop them further and organize more tournaments. Subsequently, its popularity will increase and give it a shot at becoming admitted into the Olympics. Perhaps, with the inclusion of more African sports at the Olympics, the continent will start harvesting more gold medals. 


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