Traditional African Sports That You Need to Learn About


Playing in public spaces like town squares, the street, or even huge complexes was common when I was little. Either you participated in local games or you watched imported sports like basketball, soccer, or any hybrid versions that were available, among other things.

Most people are unaware that there were native African sports that received widespread support and goodwill even before the importation of sports like soccer, baseball, basketball, rugby, and the rest into Africa. Unfortunately, these games have been marginalized and are gradually losing popularity. It may be possible to revive the spirit of some of these competitions, and who knows, perhaps even bring it into the Olympics. An overview of various traditional African sports that date back to the continent is provided below.

Dambe Boxing

Le dambe

This is a traditional style of boxing that was developed by the Hausa tribe in Northern Nigeria. During harvest season, players go to several towns and challenge members of the butcher class to a duel as festival entertainment. This game is enjoyed by both elites and commoners. They attempt to strike themselves with punches and kicks until one of them falls to the ground. The dominant arms of both combatants are bound together with rope to create striking force. It’s called “killing” to do this. Boxers are frequently called into the ring, their spirits are raised, and the crowd is encouraged by music.

Ta Kurt Om El Mahan

This game, which translates to “the ball of the pilgrim’s mother,” has Libyan origins from the 1930s. It has mostly been played by the Berber people of the Libyan Desert and has some parallels to baseball. Two nine-person teams compete against one another in alternating offensive and defensive shifts. Many people think that Europeans spread the game and gave it the new name of baseball long after the Stone Age. Furthermore, a lot of people think it will make a good alternative for baseball, which was eliminated from the Olympics.

Nguni (Stick Fighting)

The game known as “dlala nduku” is well-liked among the Nguni herders, a Bantu group in South Africa, and it has deep roots in their culture and history. Basically, a stick may be used as both an offensive weapon and a defensive shield. The attacking and defensive sticks are known as isiquili/induku and uboko. This game, where players alternate between offensive and defense, can last up to five hours. Points are awarded depending on the area of the body is struck.

The twist is that it is a brutal sport in which competitors occasionally lose their lives. This has unavoidably brought to criticism. The game’s supporters don’t mind since they claim it promotes cultural expression and demands players to have strong bodies, discipline, and abilities. Although it is illegal in some parts of South Africa, it is nevertheless a huge problem in other places.


Lutte sénégalaise Bercy 2013

This game, which is frequently called “Lamb” in Senegal, is said to have existed for more than a century. It began as a pastime for farmers and fishermen. Big fighters with a reputation in recent years may win up to $100,000 every battle, and they are a major soccer opponent in Senegal. For Senegalese, Lamb is a chance to be extricated from obscurity and given a platform that will make them a household name. Being able to make thousands of dollars when employment options are few is one reason why lamb is so popular with young people.

The rules of Laamb are rather simple. The battle is won by the first person to successfully turn their rival onto their back. Lamb comes in two different forms. One variation, which is frequently employed in neighborhood brawls, forbids wrestlers from using their hands. The battles that take place in huge stadiums are often the second version, when wrestlers are permitted to use punches and jabs.

The spirituality underlying laamb is what distinguishes it. Although wrestlers put in a lot of physical work in the lead up to the match, the main battle is thought to take place in the afterlife. Amulets are worn as protection by wrestlers on their arms. The wrestlers or griots would frequently do “bakks,” an oral art performance meant to brag about the wrestler and strike terror in the opponent, while they moved around amid a procession of dancing and drumming.

Donkey Racing

On the island of Lamu in Kenya, this sport is popular. Every year, thousands of people attend to witness the race. In this sport, jockeys ride well-trained donkeys without saddles. This game demands amazing strength, skill, and focus. Ironically, a game like this would be played on donkeys, which are thought of as lazy animals. The locals in this region of Kenya don’t give a damn, though. Each year, a sizable number of people come here to watch this race, and the victor receives a generous prize.

There is no age restriction for this activity, which often takes place in November and lets youngsters compete against adults. The game has guidelines. The riders and their donkeys sprint throughout the town while attempting to negotiate the various terrains. While some riders utilize cushioning to reduce shocks during the race, most riders ride their donkeys bareback. The riders use rods and reigns to keep the donkeys under control.



In Spain, bulls are ridden, but among the Betsileo people of Madagascar, angry bulls are ridden. It resembles a rodeo show with riders on angry bulls. Players attempt to ride and maintain their position on a Brahman cow as long as they can when it is let out of its cage. At the end of the day, only irrational respect is granted. 

Ngolo and Capoeira

Popular Afro-Brazilian sport called Capoeira blends dance, martial skills, and music. Its roots may be traced back to slave versions of ancient West African martial arts, commonly called “ngolo” or “engolo,” which share many of the same motions, rhythms, and noises and are considered to have originated in Angola in the 16th century. Capoeira, which is distinguished by strong kicks disguised as beautiful dance moves, is thought to have developed in response to Portuguese slave masters’ prohibitions against African cultures, particularly martial arts.


Even though the Olympic Games have a 3,000-year history dating back to Ancient Greece, it wasn’t until 1896 that the international athletic competition took on its current look. We hope your summer games will include the seven traditional African sports we’ve talked about.