This Nigerian football team was the first ever to leave West Africa. They arrived in the UK on the 29th August 1949 and played nine matches in five weeks against top English amateur teams.
This video is of a training session with their coach ‘the famous Fulham football star’ John (Jack) Finch.
The 1949 tour, was said to have sought to change perceptions of Africans. The organisers ‘wanted the players to present a collective face to the British public that went some way to dispelling racial myths about Africans’. The tour included a visit to Parliament, a tea party at the Colonial Office, a trip to Westminster Abbey and Wembley Stadium.
But despite the organisers claim to want to portray a different Africa they were also heavily reinforcing the ‘westernisation’ of colonial Africa. On this visit the Nigerian footballers were prohibited from wearing their traditional African clothes.
The players selected were largely representative of colonial society. Fourteen of the eighteen players were civil servants, and another two were teachers, while the team’s player/secretary Kanno had been educated in England and had thus, it was deemed, ‘acquired the refinements necessary for the public engagements’
Significantly, even though the British administrators wanted the Nigerians to wear boots, the Nigerian players insisted on not wearing them and so the decision to play barefooted could also be seen, as a sign of defiance – the retention of a traditional Nigerian identity – within a tour that clearly sought to establish an image of a modern ‘British’ Nigeria
The Nigerian team won their first match against Marine Crosby 5-2 at Liverpool. It was watched by a capacity crowd of 7,000. Unfortunately they lost the other 8 matches including that of Dulwich Hamlet
The Nigerian tour in 1949 was followed by tours from the Gold Coast in 1951, Uganda in 1956 and the Caribbean in 1959 these were also meant to illustrate the development of these areas under British rule and to highlight the continued role of the British throughout the Empire.
The Nigerian team included Tesilimi ‘Thunder’ Balogun, Sam ‘The Black Magnet’ Ibiam , Etim Henshaw, Peter ‘Baby’ Anieke, Daniel Anyiam, and Hope Lawson
The official programme for the Dulwich Hamlet v Nigeria FA match 1949