Sports As A Unifying Factor In International Relations With Focus On The NFF

Project and Seminar Material Under Sports Science

Sports As A Unifying Factor In International Relations With Focus On The NFF


The general objective of this study is to examine sports as a unifying factor in international relations with focus on the NFF. The research relied fully on secondary data to provide the qualitative analysis in solving the research problems.

Findings revealed that relation between international countries was an age long things. However, sports have further unified international countries in their relations covering trade, cultural exchange diplomacy and security. Findings further revealed that it been sports that have been strengthening the relationship between NFF and international bodies/countries because of some instances of mass deportation of Ghanaians from Nigeria and mass deportation of Nigerians from Ghana. Results demonstrated that sports has successfully bridge this animosity gap towards sustenance of brotherly love. Results demonstrated that sports has successfully bridge this animosity gap towards sustenance of brotherly love

This research analyzed the role of sports as a unifying factors in international relations with focus on NFF and international countries in terms of trade, cultural exchange, promotion of diplomacy and security. It was obvious from the findings that the unification function of sports has greater effect on cultural exchange and promotion of diplomacy that trade and security.

The study recommended that; Friendly policies should be enacted in sports by Nigeria and international countries to facilitate improved trade and security cooperation between the international countries; Regular fixing and sponsoring of friendly matches between Nigeria and international countries will improve cultural exchange and promote diplomacy in their relations.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

The Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) is saddled with responsibility of governing Nigeria’s football affairs as a way of promoting better international relations. Football, more than any other sports has the ability to bring out the best in human beings, Football is the most popular and widespread game in the world (Guttmann, 2012). The link between football and international relations has generated a lot of research interest in recent times Football, especially the World Cup, has been a unifying instrument right from its origin. Football is not just a leisure activity, it is not a simple game played between two different teams, but is, in fact, one of the most powerful components in international relations for its impact on World politics (Guttman, 2012). A world Cup football match is the biggest event in the world and the most universal phenomenon, even more universal than democracy or the market economy (Boniface, 2013).

Generally, sports has become an important aspect of Nigerian culture (Holt, 2012) so much so that the interest in and popularity of sports have affected the political, social, economic and educational fabric of thenation; sports as a whole has unified Nigeria several times. Sports are all forms of usually competitive physical activities or games aiming to use, maintain or improve physical abilities and skills of people. Usually the contest or game is realized between two sides, each attempting to excel the other. Some sports allow a tie game; others provide tie-breaking methods, to ensure one winner and one loser (Holt, 2012). A number of such two-sided contests may be arranged in a tournament producing a champion. Many sports leagues make an annual champion by arranging games in a regular sports season, followed in some cases by playoffs. Hundreds of sports exist, from those between single contestants, through to those with hundreds of simultaneous participants, either in teams or competing as individuals. In certain sports such as racing, many contestants may compete, each against all with one winner.

Sports being part of the universal culture is an important instrument for combining different people in the world. It is an activity that contributes to world peace. It can be defined as a summation of activities designed to affect positively social and moral benefits as well as physical benefits. Maguire (2015) stated that sport is probably the most effective means of communication in the modern world, bypassing both verbal and written communication and reaching directly out to billions of people world-wide. There is no doubt that sport is a viable and legitimate way of building friendship between nations. This has been demonstrated quite a number of times.

Conspicuously, it appears as if football is the only sport that exists in Africa based on its overwhelming popularity and acceptance. Football has become one of the most important tools in countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia, or even in Rwanda and all over Africa for creating national common sentiments where the enduring boundaries between ethnic groups had lead previously to extremely bloody wars (Jarvie, 2016). In fact, football is able to recreate the feeling of national belonging in Nigeria, which surpasses the deep-rooted rivalries and tensions. Football is used in the same trend to improve the relations and understanding between countries like Japan and South Korea thanks to the joint organization of the 2002 World Cup, or with the efforts being made in Israel in the same manner between Jews and Arabs. This being so, Peter Hough (2013) argues that it is reasonable to maintain that international football is a vehicle that fosters nonviolent nationalism expressions. This agrees, with the statements made by Gustafsson (2013) who nominated football for the 2010 Nobel Peace Price and with the thesis of the FIFA‟s president Joseph Blatter. Both made a strong case for portraying football as a unifying and peacemaking medium. Indeed, they contended that the contribution made by the sport for reconciling according to Irabor (2010), states and nations more than balances out its negative sides involving violence and riots in the stadium stands.

Ordinarily, sport and international relations should have little in common, apart from an international dimension of competition (Anuchie, 2015). However, it is commonly known that world politics influences sport, and also, sports events can sometimes catalyze political ones. It was not always like that, however. It is important to state that sport as a social phenomenon, is relatively new. Although its origins can be dated back to ancient times to the sports of ancient Greece, modern sport appeared in the middle of the nineteenth century. Initially it had a very amateur character and was not popular, so its significance for international relations was rather marginal. That situation changed radically in the first half of the twentieth century, mainly due to the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Games, which transformed sport to a higher level (Anuchie, 2015). The growing popularity of sport during this time can be easily illustrated by the number of athletes participating in the Olympics which has done more of unification function to the world than harm. However, this research will focus on the Nigerian Football Federation while examining sports a unifying factor in international relations.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Obviously, international relations and a peaceful unification is supposed to be more profound than the exertion of manipulation which is so often promoted by governments throughout the sport phenomenon in order to conceal the diversity and the distinct belongings of a country. Amuchie (2014) stated that sports is a mirror of the society; games provide a touch stone for understanding how people live, work, think and play as well as serving as a barometer of a nation’s progress and civilization. It is understood that sports is one of the social services that nations of the world provide for their citizens and for such service (sport) to flourish, there must be a laid down philosophy and policy. However, it has been considered that disputes and alleged corruption had largely crippled the activities of NFF leading to ineffectiveness of the sector despite available numerous sporting talents in Nigeria. Hence, this exercise intends to examine sports in Nigeria as a unifying factor in international relations with focus on the NFF.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The general objective of this study is to examine sports as a unifying factor in international relations with focus on the NFF while the following are the specific objectives:

  1. To find out if sports can be used as a unifying factor in international relations.
  2. To determine the effect of sports in international relations.
  3. To determine to what extent the NFF is promoting football as a unifying factor in international relations.
  4. To establish sports as a tool for alternative dispute resolution method

1.4 Research Questions

  1. Can sports be used as a unifying factor in international relations?
  2. What is the effect of sports in international relations?
  3. What is the role of NFF in promoting football as a unifying factor in international relations?
  4. Can sports be used as a tool for alternative dispute resolution method?

1.5 Significance of the Study

The following are the significance of this study:

The outcomes of this study will enlighten the government, policy makers, sport administrators, stakeholders and the general public on sports, particularly football as a unifying factor in international relations. It will also be used in redesigning the Nigerian Football Federation for better future performance towards better international relations.

This research hopes to contribute to the body of literature in the area of sports as a unifying factor in international relations with focus on the NFF, thereby enlarging the body of the empirical literature for future research in the subject area

1.6 Methodology

Methodology is part of the research that shows the ways and approaches of collecting the data (Oliver, 2004). This research is primarily qualitative as it is based on sports as a unifying factor in international relations with focus on the NFF between 2010 and 2018. The reason for choosing the qualitative analysis strategy is because by nature it lends itself largely to such study being exploratory and qualitative. According to Robson (1993), flexibility is always the main strength of the case study strategy in terms of interpretation and getting access to the specified places. The research is based on secondary data. Data collection was mainly by document analysis/content analysis. Document analysis/content analysis also called “textual analysis” (Travers, 2001) in the study will include all kinds of academic articles, textual and multi-media products, ranging from television programmes to web sites on the internet.

In the course of research for this work relevant data and information were obtained from the main sources. The data will be majorly obtained from the secondary sources.

Secondary source includes text books some university and public libraries across the country, journals and periodicals and information obtained from primary sources. These sources helped in providing relevant data and information relating to the study in international relations with focus on the NFF.

1.7 Scope of the Study

The current study is designed to cover sports generally in Nigeria as a unifying factor in international relations. Although the main focus have been the activities of Nigerian Football Federation between 2010 and 2018. NFF will be used as a case study in this research base of the fact that the body has been the major body in sports regulation in Nigeria, it is dominant over all other sports administrations due to the large patronage that football receive in Nigeria and globally.

1.8 Definition of Terms


An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.


Form of team game involving kicking (and in some cases also handling) a ball.

International Relations:

The way in which two or more nations interact with and regard each other, especially in the context of political, economic, or cultural relationships.

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