Senegalese popularized ‘Laamb wrestling’ before the world knew WrestleMania

Stephen Nartey April 13, 2023
Two men competing in Laamb wrestling/Photo credit: Flickr

Laamb wrestling is an ancient tradition that has been passed down for many generations in Senegal. It was traditionally associated with the Serer people till it became a national sport in Senegal and parts of the Gambia. It was a ceremony that was used to prepare the men of Serer for war. Over time it has been modernized and its platform has become a vehicle used to showcase the strength, skill, and bravery of the wrestlers.

According to legend, one of the famed wrestlers who popularized the sport was Boukar Djilak Faye, who was known for his incredible strength and wrestling abilities. It is said that Boukar, who lived in the 14th century, was able to defeat any opponent who dared to challenge him, and his legend grew to mythical proportions.

Over time, Boukar’s feats of strength and wrestling prowess became a source of inspiration for young men in Senegal. They began to emulate his techniques and that of other strong wrestlers; this birthed the sport of laamb wrestling, according to sheen magazine. It bears some semblance with the gladiators of Rome, but laamb is fought in two distinct ways. In the first instance, the wrestlers are allowed to hit each other with their fists, while the second aspect takes more of the form of an acrobatic display. A winner is declared once an opponent’s back touches the ground, according to palace travel.

Laamb wrestling takes its roots from how the sport started in rural settlements. At the end of every harvest, the young men engage in wrestling to exhibit their masculinity and strength – the winner is then crowned and celebrated by the community. In ancient times, its participation was solely for fun, but when it became competitive, contestants began introducing spirituality into the duel.

The performance of rituals has become one of the characteristics of the laamb game. No matter how strong or skillful the wrestlers are, they do not enter the ring before performing a pre-match ritual. This is expected to protect them from spiritual forces or shield them against any spell cast by their opponents during the duel.

The sport gained national appeal in the early 1990s when it attracted corporate sponsorship and huge interest from thousands of spectators. That is why laamb wrestling is a popular sport in Senegal today, with wrestlers from all over the country competing in tournaments and championships. The sport is steeped in tradition, with wrestlers often wearing traditional clothing and performing pre-match rituals to honor their ancestors and spiritual guides.

One of the most unique aspects of laamb wrestling is the use of percussionists and singers to provide music and commentary during matches. These individuals are known as griots and they play an important role in the sport by providing encouragement and commentary to the wrestlers. Despite the popularity of modern sports like soccer and basketball, laamb wrestling remains an important part of Senegalese culture. It is a symbol of strength, courage, and community, and continues to inspire young men and women to strive for greatness.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: April 13, 2023


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