Watch now: Wrestling in Dakar (Traditional African Wrestling)

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Wrestling in Dakar was featured on Al Jazeera’s Witness.

Traditional wrestling, or “laamb”, is arguably Senegal’s national sport, exceeding even football in popularity.

Matches, usually held in open-air arenas, are social and cultural events with fighters and spectators enacting rituals with a significance that dates back hundreds of years. The top tier of champions can earn up to $100,000 a fight, an unimaginable sum of money to most Senegalese, and the dream of becoming a professional wrestler spurs on many young men.

In the down-market suburb of Pikine in the capital Dakar – where 70 percent of the population are under the age of 25 and more than half the population lives on or below the poverty line – five friends are determined to become wrestling stars.

Thiam, Lamine, Abdou, Cissokho and M’Baye have opened their own informal wrestling school and train for hours every day. Their hope is to catch the eye of one person in particular – Madame Ndeye Ndiaye Tyson, one of Senegal’s leading wrestling promoters, and a woman who did not let her illiteracy stop her from rising to the top in a male-dominated sport. Madame Tyson selects just one youth at a time to promote and mentor.

In Wrestling in Dakar, we follow Thiam and Modou Faye as they train for neighbourhood matches which they hope will set them on the road to success, and by understanding their lives we come to learn something more about Senegal today.

Watch the full Wrestling In Dakar episode below

Also watch the promo video for the documentary below

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