Wrestling

Wrestling

Making the big bucks

In Senegal, wrestling is huge and many young boys dream of becoming famous wrestlers when they're older.

Football doesn’t get a look with some youngsters when compared to traditional wrestling (the "lutte" or "fight"). Successful wrestlers make big bucks in Senegal, where the sport is a multi-million dollar business.

Abdourahmane, the chief reporter, looks adoringly at a poster of his idol, Balla Gaye, a famous wrestler making the headlines. He tells us Balla is one of the best fighters in Senegal and is paid nearly one hundred million CFA Francs.

Fans flock to the stadiums. One match can attract 80,000 people and is watched on TV by millions.

How did it all begin?

Wrestling is very much part of the Senegalese culture. It is thought to have its origins in rural villages, where farmers would wrestle each other. During the dry season, farmers came to the cities looking for work and discovered  people were keen to watch them and bet on their  wrestling matches.

It wasn’t long before large-scale matches were being staged and wrestling became a respected sport.

Like generations before, the wrestlers of today still wear loin cloths to fight in the  sand-filled arenas. It is quite a spectacle and before a match, drumming and traditional dancing takes place.

Keeping boys off the streets

Boys of all ages spend their free time practicing their wrestling, just as the boys in the video are doing. It keeps many of them off the streets and less likely to get into trouble like drug abuse.

Thousands of young men flock to Dakar to train in wrestling schools, hoping they mayl be the next Balla Gaye.