From North to South, East to West Africa, football is, no doubt, Africa’s most popular and favorite sport. Football is an incredibly exciting game with origins tracing back to the 1800s when the British, French and Portuguese colonialists introduced the sport to Africa. Unlike other sports, football requires minimal resources, and for this reason, it has penetrated every part of Africa. It’s common to find youngsters across the continent, including rural areas, enjoying playing football. Football talent in Africa mostly begins at the grassroots level, and for this reason, many football stars began their careers on local football pitches.
The proliferation of African football clubs began more than 50 years ago, and since then, the number of professional football clubs and leagues have been on the rise. Today, there are many local, as well as regional and continental football leagues across Africa. Many football clubs in Africa receive sponsorship from the private sector and government, which has increased the popularity of the game.
The popularity of rugby has increased rapidly, especially in the recent years when the sport has gained a foothold in a couple of countries in Africa. Did you know South Africa, alone, has over 600,000 registered rugby players? Rugby’s popularity on the continent began in South Africa where it played a key role in ushering in South Africa’s post-apartheid era. Other African countries that have excelled in this sport include Kenya, Namibia, and Ghana.
Even though cycling has always been associated with western nations, the sport has increasingly become popular in Africa. Cycling is a fast-growing sensation and very popular in South Africa, which is famous for its scenic and exciting cycling routes. The diverse cycling routes allow participants to encounter various ecosystems to include streets lined with trees and luscious vineyards.
Africa is an athletics powerhouse, especially in field and track events where the continent has performed extremely well in global competitions. There is no doubt that athletics has put Africa on the global map, and these success stories began a couple of decades ago. Excellent talent on the continent has seen African athletes shine and break major world records at high-profile global sporting events. Several countries in Africa are known for their sterling athletic performance to include Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Algeria.
Cricket is a popular sport in Africa, especially in South Africa, Kenya, and Zimbabwe. Just like other sports, cricket has become popular and appreciated across the continent. A few decades ago, only white people were allowed to play cricket in South Africa in line with the Apartheid policy. South Africa was banned from participating in international cricket for over 20 years because of apartheid.
After the apartheid regime lost power, South Africa was allowed to participate in international cricket tournaments. In 1992, World Cup fixture against Sri Lanka, Omar Henry was the first South African black player in history to play for the national team. In 2003, Africa hosted the Cricket World Cup which was co-hosted by South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Kenya.
Cricket is also being used to empower communities with a perfect example being the youthful Maasai Warriors in Kenya, who have abandoned the traditional spear and are using cricket to help fight outlawed Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Kenya. This applaudable community initiative has earned the team a lot of admiration, support, and global recognition.
Other countries where cricket is played include Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria. In Nigeria, cricket is the oldest sport with the first official international match played in 1904, twenty years before Nigeria participated in a football match. Today, many African countries are taking part in numerous international cricket matches while posting impressive results.
According to ICC ODI Championship, South Africa ranks first with 50 matches, 5957 points, and a rating of 119. On the other hand, Zimbabwe has played 41 matches, earning 2129 points, and a rating of 52.