Bare-knuckle fights, uncertain success: Why are young people getting involved in Senegalese wrestling?

Research papers
By Cheikh Tidiane Wane, Dominique Chevé

In Senegal, in the early 70s and 90s, soccer was the most popular sport and the key to success for many young people. Today, and for the last twenty years, Senegalese wrestling has been the king sport in Senegal, offering hopes for a social status rise. So, why do young Senegalese take the risk of engaging in a combat sport of which outcome is unreliable and uncertain?
The objective of this work is to study the commitment of these wrestlers. The study is based on a socio-anthropological approach using two methodological tools: participant observation and semi-directed interviews, to access the meaning and motives behind the wrestlers' risk-taking. The results show that the social interpretation of these athletes' careers is the result of a complex and multidimensional process, which prohibits any essentialist vision of sports "skills" or any understatement to a "champion factory". The wrestlers, faced with great precariousness and often extreme poverty, invest Senegalese wrestling expecting a better future while developing strategies to give meaning to their commitment.

  • Senegalese wrestling
  • Commitment
  • Precariousness
  • Success
  • Risk
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