In this space we’ve spoken at length about Sierra Leone, its beauty and what makes it unique. From the sparkling beaches of the Turtle Islands and Freetown Peninsula, to the rainforest and wildlife found in the northern and southern parts of the country, to the history and culture of Freetown – yes, Sierra Leone has a lot to offer to all kinds of tourists. Are you the kind of tourist that likes to stay active even when you’re travelling? Or perhaps you’re an expat, planning to move to Sierra Leone for a period of time, and you’re wondering how you can keep up with your favourite sport? In this article, we’d like to talk about the 6 most popular sports in Sierra Leone, including ideas on some sporting events to join. Ready, steady, GO!
Sierra Leone has sent at least two athletes to every Olympic Games since Moscow 1980, always participating in track and field races. The majority of Sierra Leonean olympians were sprinters, with at least one athlete joining the 100 and 200 meter races. The best performing athlete was Hafsatu Kamara in the women’s 100 meters at the London Olympics, who placed 8th at the quarter finals. Sierra Leone is yet to win an Olympic medal, but we hope that Paris 2024 will be the occasion in which one of our national athletes will finally step on the Olympic podium! Generally speaking, running is a popular sport in Sierra Leone among local people, especially in Freetown. Just wander down to Lumley Beach early in the morning or late in the afternoon to escape the heat, and you’ll see dozens of runners jogging down the seafront. And if you’re looking for a running event to join, check out the Sierra Leone Marathon in Makeni, a charity run to support local charity Street Child.
The Banana Islands were used by enslavers as a base during the Transatlantic slave trade. After the abolition of slavery, a group of formerly enslaved people returned to their homeland and settled on Dublin and Ricketts – most of the 900 people living on the islands nowadays are their descendents.
After athletics, the sport with the highest participation of Sierra Leonean athletes to the Olympic Games is boxing, with 7 boxers competing in 5 different editions of the Games – the latest of which was Beijing 2008. Sierra Leonean boxers have also joined several editions of the Commonweath Games and other international tournaments, with female boxer Zainab Keita taking home the first gold medal at the West African boxing championships in 2022. Visitors and expats that want to practice boxing during their time in the country can get in touch with the Sierra Leone Boxing Association for info on boxing gyms in Freetown and beyond.
At Bunce Island you can still see ruins of the fort, including the sleeping quarters and the ‘Door of No Return’. The island is uninhabited, and nature is slowly creeping back onto the ruined buildings. The only way to visit is with a guide, who will illustrate the history of the place – it’s a moving experience, but a must to understand this dark chapter.
Roads in Sierra Leone are slowly being improved and renovated, making the country a lot more bike friendly as time goes on. Road cycling is a very up and coming sport – so far, competitive cyclists in Sierra Leone are still few and far between, approximately 200 in the whole country. The largest cycling club in the country is the one in Lunsar, organizers of the Tour de Lunsar, a stage cycling race that is attracting increasing international attention year after year. The event usually takes place in late April, and besides the 4-stage men’s race it also includes a day-long women’s race and a junior race. International signups are now available – if you’re a passionate cyclist, it could be your chance to be part of Sierra Leone cycling history!
Speaking about team sports, the most popular sport in Sierra Leone is definitely football. The Sierra Leone national team has never qualified for a World Cup, but it has taken part in 3 editions of the Africa Cup of Nations, including the latest one in Cameroon. Sierra Leone also has a football league, with 18 teams participating. All Freetown teams use the National Stadium as their home venue, so if you are in the country and want to watch a football match, there’s a good chance a game will be on during your stay. Would you like to play football? Just take a ball with you and head to Lumley Beach on Sunday, and start kicking around – somebody will join you in no time!
Basketball is also popular in Sierra Leone – there’s a national basketball team mostly made up of players from the national league, with some also playing internationally in countries including Spain, the Philippines and the US. Most league basketball games take place in the National Stadium Basketball court in Freetown. You’ll also find outdoor basketball courts – two are located along Lumley Beach. Locals will be happy if you ask to join them for a game!
The sport of cricket has been popular in Sierra Leone ever since the country was a British colony. The civil war caused a decline in cricket, as the main oval was used to house refugees, but in 2004 the national team started again to participate in ICC tournaments. In 2019, the national Sierra Leone cricket team got T20I status and began playing Twenty20 matches.