Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Big Match

About a week after Tabaski is when the annual, big traditional wrestling match takes place. This match is heavily advertised, and is aired live from Dakar on RTS, the one television station available to most Senegalese. The past 2 years it has involved the most popular wrestler – Tyson, yes he took his name from Mike Tyson, who I’ve been sure to tell everyone is a big wacko with a tattoo on his face who likes to rip people’s ears off with his teeth. Tyson happens to be from Kaolack so he seems to have a pretty big following ‘round these parts. Last year Tyson lost to the other wrestler but somehow he ended up in this year’s match too, against a guy who calls himself Bombardier.

Leading up to the match, my host mother was more excited than I had ever seen her and everyone was gathering around a tv or radio, where ever they could find one. The match itself was rather short, less than 2 minutes for sure and as far as I could see, the outcome wasn’t determinable from the footage we saw. However, that didn’t stop the entire neighborhood from erupting in joyous cheering and anyone able to run, taking to the streets, cheering, and running who knows where. After the initial outburst they realized that they didn’t know who actually won so there was discussion. This is also very similar to what seemed to be happening at the arena. Both wrestlers thought they had won and when it looked like the ref wasn’t going to award Tyson the victory, he ran through his entourage to his waiting SUV and took off. The ref was actually saying that there was to be an immediate rematch but since Tyson was a big baby and took off, the victory was awarded to Bombardier.

The days following, photographs of the final moments of the bout were circulating the market in Kaolack. Tyson was suspended by the governing body of traditional Senegalese wrestling, to which Tyson responded with the announcement of his retirement, all fueling heated discussion amongst seemingly every single resident of Kaolack for at least a week.

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