Photo Credit: Jacques Manga
Did You Know Wrestling Is The National Sport In Senegal?
Senegal has a longstanding legacy in traditional wrestling that has become popular throughout the West African region. Laamb in Wolof, meaning wrestling, honors the specific form of wrestling that includes hand blows and dual sparring between men within the Senegalese community.
The wrestling matches bring thousands of Senegalese locals together to a single outdoor arena to cheer on the participants of the historic combat sport.
The history of Senegalese wrestling is multi-generational as the power of this sport in Africa brings the title of “king” to those who win several matches, and being king of the arena, is an influential title in the country.
The African gladiators train all day to perfect their wrestling technique, and they maintain a high-intensity body training and cardio regiment. Oftentimes, there are dance and movement rituals conducted prior to the match to help opponents clear their minds and pay tribute to their spiritual heritage.
There are chants shouted and praises made by the wrestlers. Sometimes these rituals are led by griots who are West African artists and historians. The strength of these men is accompanied by the wrestling spirit and pride they possess from partaking in the Senegalese sport that has centuries of historical and generational significance.
Some wrestlers may have a lineage of fathers and grandfathers who played the sport, so the participants may feel a certain cultural duty to continue their family’s legacy.
Victory is seen as the only option for the wrestlers, who take pride in showing up for their supporters who watch the match all the way through. Becoming the famed ‘king of the arena’ is a lifelong title some Senegalese wrestlers work towards in their early adulthood, and they use this title to provide more financial resources and honor to their families.
The top victors of the Laamb sport are huge celebrities in Senegal, and they are often seen as kings in their communities.
Sometimes, the matches are held on sandy beaches, while others are organized on grass fields in large seated arenas. No matter how large the scale of the event is, the amount of Senegalese pride that comes with achieving a victory in a single match is unparalleled.
Making this West African sport and the champions of it, the proudest and strongest individuals of their people.