Nigeria is one of the most untapped hotbeds of sporting talent in the world and Here’s why is a big opportunity
First and second generation Nigerians can be found at the top of almost every sport. To name a few:
– Serie A top-scorer Victor Osimhen
– England and Arsenal star Bukayo Saka
– Champions League winner and Women’s Balon d’Or nominee Asisat Oshoala Two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo
– Former unified world heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua
– Former UFC champions Israel Adesanya and Kamaru Usman
– England rugby star Maro Itoje
– Table tennis star Quadri Aruna.
But there’s still a severe lack of quality development facilities and clear pathways for young athletes in Nigeria, meaning we have just scraped the surface so far.
With the intensifying war for sporting talent, there is a massive opportunity for those who can navigate the difficult operating terrain and identify talented athletes in the country.
What is the current situation?
Despite football’s overwhelming popularity in Nigeria, it’s American sports that are ahead in tapping into the country’s talent pools –
There are at least 26 first or second-generation Nigerians on NBA rosters, and more than 120 first or second generation Africans on NFL rosters, many of them Nigerian.
Both the NFL and the NBA have established operations in the region – the NBA have a Nigeria office and last year the NFL hosted its first annual training camp in Accra, which led to 6 Nigerians joining the NFL in 2023 via the International Pathway Program (out of only 8 slots available globally).
Also notable is that much of the initiative has come from former players returning to Nigeria, with former professionals such as Osi Umenyiora, Ejike Ugboaja, Ugo Udezue, and O’karo Akamune all playing key roles in identifying up and coming talent in the sports.
Where are the opportunities?
Despite pervasive structural challenges, the county’s demographics indicate there is likely to be far more raw talent in Nigeria than is currently being exploited:
Relatively speaking, football scouting in the country is lagging. There are a number of academies, but the youth development scene is unstructured and splintered, with no formal youth leagues and a lack of top quality training facilities. BIG opportunity.
It’s also worth looking beyond the big sports. There is potential for Nigerian talent in sports like athletics and MMA, with both Kamaru Usman and Israel Adesanya talking about establishing academies after they retire.
Women’s sport is also massively untapped, with the Nigerian women’s football team and athletes succeeding internationally despite chronic underfunding.
For those that can overcome Nigeria’s challenges and tap into the sporting talent of the country’s youth, there are likely to be significant long-term reward
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