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City of Banjul
Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Can Balla Gueye 2 find his mojo again?

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Having enhanced his burgeoning reputation as a no-nonsense fearful champion, Balla Gueye now appeared to have passed his sell-by date at least if his back to back performances were anything to lean on.  But lo and behold it was put to me that the guy is still young to throw in the towel. Out of sympathy more than my support for Balla Gueye fan, I was at pains to see heavy punches landing at him. I thought for safety reasons, organisers of the ‘Laamb’ should consider ruling out blows on an opponent that is all but down on his knees.  But as they say in Wolof ‘soo bugeh akara,denga nymengh kaani’. What would have Balla Gueye also done if he were the one on the up?  I know not. But I know full well that what is portrayed on television can go very far, for at the time of scripting this piece, I saw before my very eyes a group of kids mimicking the numerous blows handed down to Mr. Gueye in one of those street plays. 

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In fact, a certain Eumeu Sene fan joked that the punches were accompanied by the imaginary  words  ‘Yaa sulli sama yaay’, in reference to speculations that the resting place of the victor’s mother  was tampered with in the build-up to the bout for some ‘mystical reasons’, although camp Balla denied any occurrence of such despicable thing.  Whether it holds water or not, that should never happen in any game, let alone a highly cherished traditional sports that has been around for centuries. For some sympathizers of Eemue Sene, this latest victory over Balla Gueye made the score line two nil, as they recount how the stout and heavily built wrestler downed his nemesis few years ago. Balla Gueye fans, on the other hand, would argue that their man was mystically not ready in that first encounter in the arena. One wonders when he shall be ready for Eumeu. In fact, there are some who have been comically counting that number of blows dished out to him is in double figures depending on whose narration you listen to. One thing that first struck fear in me before the two rivals even faced each other was Eumeu Sene’s low centre of gravity, implying that he was not going to be any other push over despite height.

Away from the light-hearted side of the whole episode, one cannot pay a blind eye to the increasingly lucrative industry that wrestling has now become in Senegal. The pulling power of the sports is just enormous, captivating millions beyond the land of the ‘cheb bu jen’. The wrestlers themselves enjoy enviable celebrity status, with some shuttling between Senegal and Uncle Sam just as their posters can be found in vehicle windscreens here in Sere-kunda. Aside from the windfall tapped into by the promoters, television companies and perhaps even the drummer providing hard-to-resist entertainment, the money spinning industry also appears to be a growing source of employment for those young people endowed by our maker with bulky physiques. No wonder, scores of muscular and physically imposing lads here in the smiling coast are also embracing the sports in an unprecedented fashion as beaches and football fields are becoming training grounds. May be, we could soon get academies for that purpose, as is the case in Senegal.

While  supporters will continue to wrangle over the talking points in vehicles, ghettos and even work places, I have been reminded time and again that Balla Gueye is the antithesis of the less talkative Eumeu Sene, one they say does all his trainings within Senegal without having to endure jet lagged trips to the U.S. But don’t we need contrasting characters to make the game interesting? Whatever the talking points, ‘lamb’ remains a beautiful sport that generates lot of fanfare and furore as well. The drum beats can be so nice but the ensuing nail biting moments too can also make some faint. ‘Kuu merr boko’. Time to move on now that the dust has settled at the Estad Demba Diop. Party time for Team Emueu Sene and Commiserations if you belong to Camp Balla.

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