The Dominance Of The Igbo Tribe In Nigerian Football


 Editor’s note: Aderonke Bello, an associate editor with Naij.com and a sports blogger, draws public attention to the dominance of Igbo footbal players in the Nigerian national teams. Aderonke names the reasons for this tribe’s love of football and explains why some football scouts prefer to engage a player from the Igbo tribe over any other tribe.Continue after the cut..

Growing up in a family that loves football has taught me a lot about the great Nigerian footballers, past and present.

I recall the likes of Samuel Okwaraji, Jay Jay Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo, Christian Chukwu, Emeka Ezeugo, Mikel Obi, Onyekachi Apam, Uche Okechukwu, etc. All the above-named great footballers are Igbo men, as most of the footballers of such caliber to have ever come out of Nigeria are from this tribe.

Are they more talented?

Observing trending issues on the social media last week, I became privy to discussions and arguments by some stakeholders and learned people in sports concerning the fact that the Igbos are dominating the national teams, both male and female. Some commentators accused the team handlers of partiality in their squad selections. Many insinuated that the guys are always the ones they called because they feel they are more talented in football. This does not exclude the female players.

Nigerians are interesting people when it comes to tribal issues. Truth be told, the Igbos dominated and are still dominating football in Nigeria. Kudos has to be given to them, this trend is wotrhy of acknowledgement.

Having said that, I myself am a proud Yoruba woman, while most of my friends are Igbos. So, no one should accuse me of tribalism or picking on this wonderful footballing tribe.

They have collectively brought glory to our great nation Nigeria in so many ways. In recent times, the squad that won the 2013 African Cup of Nations was full of the Igbos. Even the 2013 World Cup-winning U-17 squad.

The upcoming dudes are Kelechi Iheanacho, Chidiebere Nwakali, to name but two among many others. Looking at the Nigerian leagues across the nation, it can be observed that most of the players plying their trade there are of the Igbo tribe.

Nigerian players of the Igbo tribe abroad

The statistics of the players in different leagues moving out of the country show that there are players of the Igbo tribe or descent in the Scandinavian countries, the Middle Belt, even in Yemen. I feel they should be happy and proud of their input and contribution to local and global football while they rightfully enrich their pockets in return.


Many of them have adopted other countries due to the lack of chance to feature for their nation. They are of great determination. These folks represent us well with their sportsmanship.

I remember a Super Eagles player, Sunday Mba, who scored the winning goal at 2013 AFCON, Mikel Obi, young Kenneth Omeruo was also superb with the strong input from the now retired Emmanuel Emenike.

Statistically, about 70% overall national participation goes to the Igbo guys, while the remaining 30% is shared amongst other tribes. People from other tribes tend to “fade away” so soon, while the Igbo guys stand the test of time and are more devoted to the game and have lengthy footballing careers. I wonder how they do it. What is their secret recipe?

The reasons behind their love for football

After thinking deeplu and raising some questions, I realized that this set of people like the game of football more than the rest of the tribes in the country, and also get more encouragement in doing so.

It can be attributed to a number of reasons: physical prowess, as they’re genetically sturdier than the other tribes; they are encouraged by the number of successful Igbo players; their enterprising nature affords them the ability to foresee the riches that may lie ahead despite the short-termism of the career; football is better embraced as it is seen as a way out of poverty within the community; Igbos simply better football than the other tribes; there’s a better scouting network within the tribe.

Meanwhile, you can hardly see a Hausa girl play football. Only few Yoruba girls come out to play the round leather ball game. Can we safely blame this on their religion and culture? Of course, yes!

Some scouts will rather an Igbo footballer, because it is widely believed that they take football more seriously. Another thing that came to my mind is that the Igbos are business-oriented, and one fast way to big money is through football.

I am really grateful for their efforts and I hope they keep contributing their skills to bringing glory to the nation through football.

Ndigbo kwenu!

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