OBJECTIVES OF ABULA: To be the first team to score 16 points


NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 8 Players (4 players per team)

CONTENTS: Court, Net, Bats, Ball




Abula is one of the most famous traditional games in Nigeria, played across many parts of the country.

It is especially popular in the south western part of Nigeria.

Invented by Mallam Elias Foluso Yusuf in 1984, Abula bears a striking resemblance to volleyball, with the main difference being that Abula players are not allowed to touch the ball with their hands.

Abula can be played as a recreational sport, and has also been featured in some major competitions.

It received IOC patronage in 1994, and has been a regular medal scoring sport at the National Sports Festival in Nigeria.

Abula is very interesting and engaging, with fans investing plenty of emotions and money into the game.

Long before the days of online betting sites in Nigeria, spectators used to place physical bets on abula matches. Maybe one day, Abula will become very popular again, and join sports like football and basketball on betting sites in Nigeria!

The game is highly entertaining; and also very easy to set up and understand.


Abula is played on a rectangular court, with dimensions 16m by 8m, split into two halves by a net 2.44m high.

Each team comprises four players, with four substitutions allowed per team. A team can make only two substitutions in a set.

The game is played with specially designed wooden Abula bats and a tennis-size ball, with the objective being to hit the ball over the net from one side of the court to the other.

An abula bat has three handles. During play, a player can either use one hand to hold the bat, or opt for the double-handed grip. Both are legal in Abula.


Before play begins, there is a coin toss to decide who serves first.

Once that is out of the way, the server puts the ball into play from the service area, which is at the right hand corner at the back of the court. 

The serving team serves four times in a row before the opponent takes over the service. The objective of the serve is to hit the ball over the net into the opponent’s half of the court. 

If the ball fails to clear the net or lands outside the court, a point is awarded to the receiving team.

Unlike volleyball, both the serving and receiving teams can score points off every serve.

After a legal serve, the ball is said to be in play.

When the ball is in play, a team is not allowed to touch the ball more than three times before returning the ball to the opponent’s half. Also, the ball must not hit the ground before it is sent over the net.

Some of the most popular Abula skills include smashing, blocking, ball deflection, rally and bend-picking.


Teams can score points in Abula in many ways. 

For example, if a serve fails to clear the net or lands outside the court, the point will be awarded to the receiving team. 

When the ball is in-play, each team is allowed a maximum of three touches before sending the ball to the opponent’s half of the court.

If the ball hits the ground in either half of the court, play is paused and a point will be awarded to the opposing team.

Also, if the ball lands outside the court during play, the team on possession will be penalised. A point will be awarded to the opponents.

As you can see, there are many different ways through which points are scored in an Abula game.

To understand the scoring system better, have a look at some of the other rules of the game.

  • A player is not allowed to hit the ball more than once
  • A player is not allowed to touch the net with body or bat
  • A player is not allowed to throw the bat at the ball
  • A player can only hit the ball with the face of the bat. Backhand hits are not allowed.
  • A player is not allowed to step beyond the dividing line of the court.
  • Bats of two players must not touch when the team is attempting to play the ball.
  • A player cannot hit the ball out of court or into the net.

If a player violates any of these rules, a point will be awarded to the opposing team.


The first team to score 16 points, and has a lead of at least two points, wins the game.

If both teams get to 15-15, this is called deuce. In this case, the team that gets to 16 first cannot be declared the winner because they wouldn’t have a two-point lead. The game continues until one of the teams establishes a two-point lead.

If neither team manages to meet this criterion, then the first team to score 20 points is declared the winner of the set.

A match can be the best of three games or best of five sets, depending on the agreed rules before the start of play.

Nakoa Davis