Many African sports have survived through the centuries. However, their structure and practice have continued to evolve. 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.
In 2020, 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 not too impressive record at the Olympics. The reason is partly that the majority of the games played at the Olympics are alien to Africans.
However, adopting African sports at the 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.
#9 – Kwepena
Kwepena is a popular game in Kampala, Uganda. This traditional African sport is mostly played by girls. The yard game is fun and widely enjoyed across the slums. The players take turns to dodge a soft ball usually made of plastic which are hurled by their opponents.
In an attempt to make the game accepted by the Olympics, Simon Tumukunde, a sport developer, defined the court dimensions and introduced the regulation balls. To further grow the audience of the standardized game, Tumukunde is organizing competitions among schools and company staff.
According to historians, the original game was played in West Africa. At that time, it was one of the drills used by fighters training for battle. Instead of soft ball, the players used rocks which often strikes a fatal blow.
#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. It 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 on the list is that many Africans widely revere it. Secondly, this traditional African sport educates reimagines the liberation of African people from slavery in Brazil.
#7 – Dambe Boxing
Boxing games tend to attract a lot of attention, especially when it’s in a traditional setting. Dambe boxing is a proof to this claim. Originally, this traditional African sport was played by the Hausa people of Northern Nigeria as a recreational activity.
With time, it evolved and is now a much more famous African sport with wider a audience. The boxers face each other in pairs and fight until one person cannot continue. At this point, the opponent is declared the winner. What makes this boxing unique is that the fighters can only punch with one arm.
The fighters’ dominant arms are wrapped with a rope to provide more punch power. It also prevents knuckle fractures and knuckle-inflicted injuries. Given that this game is not as violent as the 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 objective is to throw the opponent to the ground by lifting him up and over, usually outside a marked area. As a sporting activity that competes at the national level in Senegal, we feel it would be a great addition to the Olympics. This traditional African sport will surely add flavor and diversity to the Olympics.
#5 – Ta Kurt Om El Mahag
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 took turns playing defense and offense. Since 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.
Points for this game is usually rated by which body part was 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 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. For the thrilling game, participants need to be physically fit.
This is because when an angry bull is released from a cage, the man will attempt to hang on it for as long as possible. The winner is the one who manages to mount 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 probably wonder 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, it is harder to standardize and scale the games.
Thankfully, that is changing. Some African governments are now putting their weight behind traditional sports. 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.