Timothy Chibuike Anyanwu is a lecturer at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi State, Nigeria. He holds a Ph.D. in History and International Studies from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, an M.Sc. in Peace and Conflict Studies from the National Open University of Nigeria, Abuja, and a B.A. in History and International Studies from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. His doctoral dissertation, titled “Beyond Mere Leisure: Football and Peace in Igboland, Nigeria, 1904-1980,” studied football (soccer) as a tool for anti-racism and peacemaking during the colonial and post-Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) period.

Timothy is a history teacher and interdisciplinary researcher in various fields, including Sports History, African Studies, International Studies, and Peace and Conflict Studies. He is a member of the Historical Society of Nigeria (HSN), the Trans-Atlantic Research Council, and the Lagos Studies Association (LSA). Timothy is also a recipient of a 2022 Next Gen Doctoral Dissertation Research Fellowship award of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), New York; fellow of James Currey Society, African Study Center, Oxford, University of Oxford, England; fellow of Africa Center, Mexico; and a recipient of the 2023 FIFA research scholarship.


Next Gen: Briefly describe the central argument of your doctoral dissertation. What is its main contribution to knowledge in your field?

Timothy Chibuike Anyanwu: Contrary to the views of many scholars that the relationships between the British colonizers and the Igbo people of Nigeria during the colonial era were always a master-slave association, my dissertation argued that there were instances when all parties were seen as equal individuals. Such occasions were made possible through football because the rule of the game was to keep race out of it. My work maintained that football provided the context for an egalitarian association composed of peoples of different racial and national backgrounds. This argument was sustained using several archival documents, such as colonial newspapers. For example, the Nigerian Daily Times of Monday, September 1st, 1930, reported that the football team of the Public Works Department (PWD) of this era comprised 70 Europeans and 200 Africans who played as equal and ‘indivisible’ sportsmen.

Another key argument of my doctoral dissertation was that football reduced tensions and cruel suppression of colonized people during the independence struggles in the 1940s and 1950s. For instance, a colonial military officer of the 6th Battalion of the Nigeria Regiment, Enugu, was instrumental in training and spreading football to the civilian Igbo populace. One of the impacts of this was the creation of friendly rapport and reduction of mutual suspicion and animosity between the natives and the colonial army. One of the dominant features of African history during this period was aggressive nationalism by anti-colonial agitators and the attendant harsh policies and brutal repression by the colonizers, as seen in places like South Africa and Kenya, among others. In these places, such anti-colonial leaders as Nelson Mandela and Jomo Kenyatta adopted confrontational approaches in their dealings with the various colonial governments in their countries. Some of the resultant effects of this approach were a series of wars, killings, maiming, and destruction of properties. The case of Nigeria was different. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, a foremost Nigerian nationalist who also happened to be from Igboland, adopted football as an agency for the anti-colonial struggles. Firstly, he formed a sporting club named Zik’s Athletic Club (ZAC) in 1938. This club united the various peoples of Nigeria, irrespective of their ethnic, gender, and racial backgrounds. Azikiwe established the club after he secured the permission of British colonial officers such as Captain Drake, who was the colonial government’s auditor. After laying this foundation, ZAC was able to embark on a series of campaigns in what was called the Goodwill Tour. For instance, one of the colonial newspapers, West African Pilot, under the title “Seven Weeks on the Road,” published on Friday, January 30th, 1942, gave an account of how ZAC toured some colonial towns such as Onitsha, Owerri, and others. Through such football tours, anti-colonial and independence messages were spread using the avenues provided by football match venues. This dissertation maintained that this approach contributed to the peaceful campaign for, nationalist sensitization, and bloodless attainment of political independence in Nigeria on October 1, 1960.

The last central argument of my dissertation was that football played roles beyond leisure in restoring peace in Igboland during the post-Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) era. The study uncovered the roles of football clubs, such as Enugu Rangers, Enyimba of Aba, Spartans of Owerri, and Akagu Wonder Boys of Mbano, in reuniting the ex-soldiers and child soldiers with the larger society. It further facilitated reconciliation between the people in war-affected communities and areas by helping to restore friendships, trust, and cordial relations that were ruptured by feelings of betrayal and sabotage. In sum, this dissertation argued that football matches of the era provided psychological succor that complemented the official postwar reconstruction plans of the government.

The main contribution of this research to my field is that it uncovered an aspect of Nigerian history that deals with the application of football towards dousing the tensions associated with colonialism, and the aftermath of civil war. Existing literature showed that academic discourses on the colonial history of Nigeria have been mainly viewed through the lens of politics, economics, and militarism. However, this study introduced a nuanced approach to understanding the relations between the peoples of various ethnic groups in colonial Nigeria. The work argues that the application of football during the agitation for independence was one of the major reasons there was no brutal suppression and heightened tension in Nigeria, as seen in countries such as South Africa and Kenya. The work finally uncovered the roles of football in the postwar reconstruction of Igboland in Southeast Nigeria after a brutal civil war. Generally, it serves as a resource for future researchers in my field.

How did the Next Gen fellowship program impact your doctoral journey?

The Next Gen fellowship program highly impacted my fieldwork and the writing of my doctoral dissertation. To start with, the award came at a time when I was unsure of how to fund my fieldwork because of the locations of the research sites that I needed to visit, both within and outside my country, Nigeria. Fortunately, the fellowship provided me with the financial support I needed to start my fieldwork. Secondly, the two workshops organized by the fellowship unraveled the secrets of fieldwork, data collection, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of research findings. The crop of workshop facilitators and mentors are commendable. These include Prof. Kasaija Apuuli, who not only taught me how to carry out my fieldwork but also unlocked the door to knowledge about safety in unsafe research sites.

Furthermore, during the workshops, fellows were allocated time to discuss one another’s works and interact with highly experienced mentors. Through my discussions with other fellows, I understood many things about writing styles and approaches. Again, the program staff, such as Cyril Obi, Duncan Omanga, and Shana Pareemamun, were among the most helpful people I met during my doctoral journey. Their constant availability to attend to my emails, provide letters (when needed), and answer all my questions was top-notch. I must commend the SSRC for having such amazing staff.

Finally, the fellowship provided me with an international network of researchers. This network helped me in many ways, including by providing needed resources and materials (such as journal articles) and suggesting how to overcome some research challenges.

Now that you have completed your PhD, what are your plans for the future?

Good academic work is not completed until the findings are effectively communicated.  Therefore, one of the first things I plan to do is communicate the findings of my doctoral research through presentations at academic gatherings and publications. Furthermore, my doctoral fieldwork and my successful completion of the PhD program opened many windows of academic studies to me. During my studies in research sites, such as archives, libraries, and museums, I discovered a lot of academic gaps calling for attention in my area of study. For instance, some archival documents suggested that Nigerian women employed football as a fundraising strategy for the British Empire during World War II.

Another important discovery I made was the role of football in challenging some customary laws that limited the rights of women in colonial Northern Nigeria, where Islamic cultural practices were dominant. My examination of documents, such as colonial newspapers and the logbooks of the early missionary schools, showed that football played an important role in the resettlement of ex-slaves from the Americas to such West African coastal towns like Calabar and Lagos. The aforementioned are some of the examples of many researchable academic gaps in my field that have not been fully addressed. I plan to seek funding to embark on postdoctoral research to fill these gaps within the next five years.

Such studies will contribute immensely to a better understanding of slavery, racism, cultural transfers and exchange, peacemaking, urbanization and development, colonial, and sports histories, among others. The completion of the foregoing and other studies will better equip me as a well-trained scholar in my field, and this will greatly position me to be a better teacher to train others.

A list of Timothy Chibuike Anyanwu’s published works.

Journal Articles Published 

Timothy Chibuike Anyanwu and  K. J. Ani. (2023). Football, Racism and Peacebuilding in Colonial Nigeria. RBBF – Brazilian Journal of Futsal and Football, 15(62), 189-199. http://www.rbff.com.br/index.php/rbff/article/view/1340/1035

Timothy Chibuike Anyanwu and K.J. Ani. (2023). Feet Drain During Invasion? Russo-Ukrainian Wars of 2022 and Nigerian Footballers in the Region. RBBF – Brazilian Journal of Futsal and Football, 15(62), 200-211. http://www.rbff.com.br/index.php/rbff/article/view/1341/1036.

Timothy Chibuike Anyanwu (2019). Ethno-Religious Conflicts and Nation Building in Nigeria. Journal of Nation-building & Policy Studies (JoNPS) 3,(1), 97-110. https://journals.co.za/content/journal/10520/EJC-1661c2cca7

Timothy Chibuike Anyanwu and K.J Ani and D.E. Uwaizeyimana (2020), New Wine in Old Wine Skin: An Assessment of African Union’s Peace and Security Initiatives. Journal of African Union Studies (JOAUS), 1(8), 67-81. https://journals.co.za/doi/10.10520/EJC-1d58e06c09

With K.J. Ani. (2020). Slavery and Colonialism: The Roots of Postcolonial Conflicts in Africa. World Affairs: The Journal of International Issues, 24, (1), 132-141. https://www.jstor.org/stable/48622912.

Timothy Chibuike Anyanwu, K. C., Solomon, et al. (2023). Effective Leadership and the Quest for Environmental Sustainability in Africa. European Journal of Sustainable Development, 12(4), 417. https://www.doi.org/10.14207/ejsd.2023.v12n4p417.

Timothy Chibuike Anyanwu, C.M. Amaechi et al. (2022). Ethnic Cleavages, Marginalization and Human Rights Deprivations as Precursors of Self-Determination Conflicts in South-Eastern Nigeria: A Logical Approach. Webology, 19(1), 8584-8598. https://www.webology.org/abstract.php?id=4634

Timothy Chibuike Anyanwu, C.M. Amaechi, et al. (2022). Management of Ethno-Religious Conflicts in Nigeria amidst Insufficient Health Facilities: Empirical Insights from Benue and Enugu States of Nigeria. Webology. 19(3). 3946-3960. https://www.webology.org/abstract.php?id=4635

Book Chapters:

Timothy Chibuike Anyanwu  and E.M. Egbule. (2023). Theoretical Assessment of the Roles of Diamond in the Sierra Leone’s Civil War. In K.J. Ani (Eds.) Resource Conflict and Environmental Relations in Africa. UK: Palgrave Macmillan. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-19-7343-7_3

Timothy Chibuike Anyanwu, I.G. Anikelechi and P.O. Okoye (2023). Industrial Revolution and International Conflicts: A Reassessment. In K.J. Ani (Eds.) Political Economy of Colonial Relations and Crisis of Contemporary African Diplomacy. UK: Palgrave Macmillan. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-99-0245-3_3.

Timothy Chibuike Anyanwu and V. Ojakorotu (2023). The Colonial Nigeria’s Impact in the Allied Bloc’s Victories During the World War II. In K.J. Ani (Eds.) Political Economy of Colonial Relations and Crisis of Contemporary African Diplomacy. UK: Palgrave Macmillan. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-99-0245-3_10

Timothy Chibuike Anyanwu (2019). Across the Indian Ocean: Interrogating Nigeria and Asian connections in historical perspective. In K. J. Ani & K. Eesuol. (Eds.) International relations and security politics in Africa: Essays in honor of Professor Victor Ojakorotu. Washington, London: St. James’s Studies in World Affairs Academica Press.

Papers Accepted for Publication:

Timothy Chibuike Anyanwu (2024). Football and National Identity: The Example of the Super Eagles of Nigeria’s Participation in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. RBBF – Brazilian Journal of Futsal and Football.

Papers presented in conferences:

“Super Eagles of Nigeria and National Cohesion: The 2018 FIFA Work Cup Example.” A paper presented at the 5th Achebe International Conference of Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria and the Pearson Institute at the University of Chicago, held at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in July, 2023.

“Kicking to Clique: Enugu Rangers Football Club and Nation-Building in Nigeria, 1970-1980.” A paper presented at the 1st International Conference of the Department of History and Strategic Studies Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi, held in May, 2023.

“Feet Drain in the East? Russo-Ukrainian Wars of 2022 and Nigerian Footballers in the Region.” A paper presented at the 1st International conference of the Institute of African and Diaspora Studies, University of Lagos, and Glotan Resource Services Conference, held in November, 2022.

“Soccer, Racism and Peacebuilding in Colonial Nigeria.” A paper presented at the 66th Congress/Conference of the Historical Society of Nigeria, Enugu, Nigeria, held in October, 2021.

“Feet on the Ball, Minds on Their Rights’: Women, Football and Protests in Eastern Nigeria, 1892 to 1975.” A paper accepted for presentation at the 8th Annual Lagos Studies Association Conference, to be held at the University of Lagos in June, 2024.

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