Darkar is known for its lovely beaches, one thing you may see when you take a regular walk on the beach are wrestlers training. These wrestlers train for one of Senegal’s biggest sport, even bigger the soccer is Laamb or la Lutte (Local Wrestling).
For centuries, the Senegalese sport of wrestling, know as LAAMB in the native language of Wolof has like American baseball been the preferred sport. It mirrors the Greco-Roman style of wrestling in terms of form, but it is far more representative of traditional African wrestling. Laamb is categorized into two types: the first lets wrestlers hit each other with their bare hands, which can be unpleasant; the second is more acrobatic and does not allow hitting.
The bout is ended when a wrestler’s back strikes the ground; he has lost. Wrestlers participate in various rites and rituals prior to dueling in Laamb, which is a spiritual as well as a physical exercise. No wrestler will ever enter the ring, much less fight, without his “marabout” or without engaging in his own pre-match ritual, regardless of his strength, physical, or technical skills.
During the ceremony, the wrestler, surrounded by drummers and singers, dances all-around field, donning various esoteric charms or amulets around his hands, legs, and waistline to protect him from evil spirits and other fighters’ spells. Wrestling contests are elevated just above the level of normal spectator sport because of this facet of the sport. Many people come to watch the ceremony as much as they go to watch the sport.
Laamb is believed to have originated in the Senegalese countryside, where men from the village will wrestle at the end of the harvesting season. It was a means for them to not only let off steam but also to demonstrate their strength and be crowned champions. While laamb has long been popular in Senegal, it gained traction in the 1990s because of corporate sponsorship and massive stadium battles that drew thousands of spectators. One reason for its popularity among the youth is that Laamb symbolizes a way to make thousands of dollars while job possibilities are scarce.
Wrestling fans and sports tourists frequently visit Dakar, Senegal, to witness these great battles. Champions are said to earn anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000 per tournament, depending on the sort of event and the sponsors. If you ever visit Senegal, make a point of stopping by one of these wrestling stadiums to get a peek at this unique Senegalese pastime.