"The dominance of the Igbo tribe in Nigerian football"

This is an exclusive blog post by journalist and speaker, Aderonke Ogunleye-Bello. "...

Kelechi Iheanacho

Growing up in a family that love football has shown me a lot about the great footballers we have ever had in Nigeria.

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 calibre to have ever come out of Nigeria are from the tribe.

When observing trending issues on the social media sometime last week, I was privy to discussions and sometimes arguments by some stakeholders and learned people in sport about the fact that the Igbos are dominating the national teams, both male and female, while some 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 better talented in football. However, this does not exclude the female players.

Nigerians are interesting people in its entirety when it comes to tribal issues, truth be told, they dominated and are still dominating football in Nigeria. Kudos has to be given to them, worthy of acknowledgement.

Having said that, as a proud Yoruba woman, 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 and many others, to name but two. Looking at the Nigerian Leagues across the Nation, on its own, most of the players plying their trade there are of the Igbo Tribe.

Moving out of the country right now, the statistics of the players in different leagues abroad in the Scandinavian countries, the middle belt, even in Yemen, are of the Igbo Tribe or descend. I feel they should be happy and proud of their inputs 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. Critically speaking, some people from other tribes fade away so soon while the Igbo guys stand the test of time, and are more devoted to the game, conversely, have lengthy footballing careers, I wonder how they do it. What is their secret recipe?

Reasons behind their love for football are many and after a deep thought and questions raised, 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, singularly or additionally; Physical prowess, as they’re genetically sturdier than the other tribes; Better encouraged by the number of successful Igbo players; Their enterprising nature afford them the ability to foresee the riches that may lie ahead despite the short-termism of the career; Its better embraced as a way out of poverty within the community; Simply better enjoyed in practice than the other tribes; Better scouting network within the tribe.

Meanwhile, you can hardly see a Hausa girl play football and also, only few Yoruba girls come out to play the round leather 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 really thank them 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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