Of all the many sports in Africa, the most noble of them all is Wrestling. It is one of the oldest and fiercest of sports in our existence as a people. But somehow this ancient and glorious sports has been kicked aside for other European and Asian sports, thereby starving the African people of the benefits of our sweet old ‘Wrestling”.
Growing up as a child I read the story of ‘Amalinze the Cat’ and have always been enthralled by the powers and ability of Amalinze whose back never touches the ground in a wrestling match.
So today I would love to talk about the old wrestling tradition of the African people and how this sport influenced our society.
The traditional wrestling is called “Igba mgba” in the Igbo, gídígbò in Yoruba, Fannin kokowar in Hausa, Ukulwa in Zulu and mieleka in Swahili.
Although wrestling is not fully practiced as before, it is still a noble sport in many African tribes. It is an acknowledgment of the skill and strength of young men in Africa.
In Africa, a man is believed to be strong when he is able to fight off his aggressors. So wrestling shows strength and courage. Before the wrestling season, young men who will be fighting will train for months. The young man who comes out victorious in traditional wrestling is admired and respected by all. He is seen as a Warrior or a distinguished wrestler.
The rewards for such victories vary from one tribe to the other.
Traditional Wrestling sometimes is used to settle local dispute and conflict between two Villages. It is also used to determine the right groom in cases where a young woman has many suitors. In such cases, a wrestling match is arranged. All the suitors fight it out and whoever wins takes the woman as bride.
Wrestling has also being a form of entertainment for many centuries. Usually, the chief of the village and the elders are seated, while the villagers gather around the village square/arena to watch.
Wrestling matches these days take place in traditional rings; a ring filled with sand to prevent injury. Often times flutes and drums are played to provide tunes and beats that motivate the warriors. This is believed to give added strength to the weak. Spectators are also present to cheer the wrestlers on and encourage them. At the end of the match, the winner of the contest takes home a certain price.
This beautiful sport has become quite unpopular in many African tribes, giving way to football and other foreign sports.
In 2018, a Pan African wrestling championship was held in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. This is a welcomed developement. We expect more states, communities, societies, and individuals to organize more of these wrestling competitions, to rekindle the popularity of this noble sports in Africa.
Article Written By Chuka Nduneseokwu