Traditional Wrestling

Gambian wrestling started to get organised in the early 1950s, in Banjul at the Secretariat Office Group and now known as the Quadrangle (Ministry of Culture & Tourism, Ministry of Health Buildings). The venue was later moved to the Box Bar Staduim now King Fahad Mosque grounds) before finally located to the famous Dodou Mbaye Yard (Now New Primet Junction & Mosque Road).

These were not the only venues, there was also later another one, called the polular Arena Omar Gaye Nyang and in Serekunda, the Arena B.O. Semega Janneh in Dippa Kunda. The Arenas were mostly salted grounds and sand with barbwire rings for wrestlers. The fences were iron-corrugate and the entrances were formed like arches with two tree trunks and a shield to prevent passers-by from seeing what was going on inside. Ticket-sellers were carved out at the far corner of the entrance of the Stadium.

The popularity of Gambian wrestling was triggered when Foday Busso Bah, a Cassamance balanta tribesman visited The Gambia. Foday Bussa Bah was two metres tall and weight over 200 kilos. He was a giant and his name was known throughout the sub-region as King of the Arena. He was the one who introduced the legendary wrestler, Falaye Baldeh to The Gambia. He had his own beat which the boys sang as ‘Dusuba Sa berr bu rey bi”.

Wrestling is a form of combat sport involving grappling type techniques, such as clinch-fighting, throws and take-downs, joint locks, pins and other grappling holds. A wrestling bout is a physical competition, between two (occasionally more) competitors or sparring partners, who attempt to gain and maintain a superior position. There are a wide range of styles with varying rules with both traditional, historic and modern styles.
When the slave hunters arrived on the banks of the River Gambia and young Kunta Kinteh saw them and reported them to the wrestler, it was he (wrestler) who said these words “the white man is here”. The slave hunters successfully captured wrestler, Kintango and many village elders to be sold in America as slaves. In the middle of the journey, half way across the Atlantic, a fight broke out between slaves and slave drivers and the wrestler was killed with one shot of a canon bomb.

Therefore a wrestler is more than a sportsman. He was a knower of the universe and lives as one with the universe, a man of myth with a will to defend the entire community. A wrestling contest was a meeting of two community warriors with super natural powers, (as in the battle of Achilles versus Hector) in the battle for Troy between two kings; as you would often see also in Flying-Chinese films.

African wrestling took the world with might because many African Gladiators fought their way to freedom from slavery by fighting and killing monsters and wild animals and mask killers who were favored by kings and trained as machines of death. The African wrestler is the Gladiator and the ‘Great Spartacus’ was one of them.

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