Traditional wrestling, also known as “Laamb” in Wolof, is a centuries-old sport in Sénégal. In terms of form, it is very similar to the Greco-Roman style of wrestling; however, it is very typical of traditional, African wrestling.
Laamb is as much a spiritual activity as it is physical; and wrestlers engage in various rites and rituals preparatory to fighting. No wrestler, regardless of his strength, physical, or technical abilities, will ever dare to enter the ring, much less fight, without his “marabout” or without participating in his own pre-match ceremony.
In spite of the popularity of soccer, basketball, and other imported sports, traditional wrestling is still the national event for the people, and receives a lot of sponsorship dollars to advance its growth. National champions are crowned and praised as the subject of numerous songs.
It was practiced to rejoice, perpetuate cultural folklore, and to designate the strongest man of the village who will become the champion wrestler until the next year.
During French colonization of Senegal, these fights continued to take place in the bush, without the occupiers really knowing much about them. However it was a Frenchman who organized the first official fights in the 1920’s in his cinema El Malik in the capital, Dakar. The wrestlers were paid thanks to ticket sales. It was around this time that a form of the sport began in which wrestlers could also hit their opponents (wrestling with strikes).
After independence, this form of the sport slowly became professional and took hold in towns and cities.
Pro Wrestling, Senegal Style
|But the percentage of wrestlers who become rich in the sport is minuscule. Of more than 3,000 registered wrestlers, only a dozen earn more than $100,000 per combat, and those wrestlers have only one match per year.|