Africa Defense Forum
ADF is a professional military magazine published quarterly by U.S. Africa Command to provide an international forum for African security professionals. ADF covers topics such as counter terrorism strategies, security and defense operations, transnational crime, and all other issues affecting peace, stability, and good governance on the African continent.

A Rivalry Fueled by Football and Rice

ADF STAFF  |  photos by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

When it comes to bragging rights, Nigeria and Ghana are rivals in many things. These days, it’s football and a festive rice dish.

The latest edition of the intense rivalry came at the end of March 2022, when Ghana’s national football team defeated Nigeria to advance to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Any rivalry between the two countries might seem unlikely. In terms of population, Nigeria is the continent’s largest country, with 206 million residents. Ghana is the continent’s 13th-largest country, with 31 million residents.

Their rivalry dates to 1957, when Ghana gained independence three years before Nigeria. The two countries have been competing ever since.

These days their rivalries are football and competing versions of Joloff rice, a spicy West African dish used in parties and celebrations. August 22 is Jollof Rice Day in both countries, with contests comparing the two versions side by side. The football competition between the two countries has been dubbed “The Joloff Wars,” and the 2022 World Cup qualifier was dubbed “The Joloff Derby.”

The football rivalry started while both countries fought for independence. The BBC reported that Ghana won its first nontournament games in the 1950s, including a 7-0 thrashing of the Red Devils, as the Nigerian team was then called, in June 1955.

As of April 2022, Ghana had the edge in their games: 4-3 in Africa Cup of Nations trophies, a World Cup quarter-final appearance, and a 22-10 advantage in head-to-head meetings, which include the 2022 World Cup qualifier.

Most of those victories came during the ’70s and ’80s, but in 1992, Ghana returned to form when the Black Stars inflicted a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the Nigeria Super Eagles in the Africa Cup of Nations semifinal.

Nigeria since has gone on to claim continental success in 1994 and 2013, to add to its 1980 title, while Ghana — four-time African champions — has not won the trophy since 1982.

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