Sudanese wrestling- from Mountaintops Right into Khartoum-A Heritage and Culture

Khartoum, (–Engraved in the ancient Nubian culture and pictured in the far north Sudan caves, wrestling seems to be as old as Sudan has existed.  Archeological troves and missions have not failed to make the similarities between those pre-history activities and today's sports practiced in the hustling and bee-hive active Souq Wihda market place in Khartoum, Sudan's national capital.


 Likewise it is almost a photocopy of the traditional dancing-wrestling practiced in Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Chad and many other African countries. It is a practice seen in festival, harvest, new year and other traditional village celebrations ranging from marriage to male-child circumcision and reaching the age of manhood. But in Sudan it could equally mean merger of the regional peripheral cultures into the national main stream culture, it is one of the areas where the contribution  of the regions is undeniably present.

The modern Sudanese wrestling has begun a few decades ago in the Nuba Mountains, South Kordufan State, to be precise in 1920'S. Since then, the sports began to gain popularity in all parts of the Sudan. It was introduced to Khartoum in 1969 by the Nubians who served with the British army and stayed behind after the British colonizers left the country in 1956.

There is now a wrestling ring in Haj Yusuf, East of the Nile Locality, Khartoum State where heated competitions are organized between teams and clubs which are members of the Sudanese Wrestling Association that, in turn, is a member of the African and Arab unions and has obtained membership in the international wrestling union. The Sudanese Wrestling Association participated in numerous local, regional and international championships.

 SUDANOW on October 21 visited the wrestling arena in Haj Yusuf and viewed an existing match between the Forest Lions and Secretary Eagles teams which included renowned super-stars in this sport. The Eagles beat the Lions 6/4 in front of a large number of enthusiastic fans.

During the match Sudanow conducted an interview with Abbas Idris, Sudan Wrestling Association Secretary, which ran as follows:

Q- Would you give us an idea of this sport?

A-It is very exciting and popular with many fans consisting of Sudanese, in general, and Nubians, in particular. Originating in the Nubba Mountains, the sport is practiced by wrestler of well-built ad strong physique.

Q- Are there specific seasons for the sport?

A-The sport begins in the rainy season and the competitions reach peak in the harvest which is the main wrestling season.

Q- What are the famous wrestling places and tribes?                      

A-The Nubba tribe is the one most famous for this sport which is widely played in Dilling, Talode and Abu Jibaiha, but the most famous area for the game is Neteel, all in South Kordufan.

Q-How and when did the game reach Khartoum?  

A-It was brought into Khartoum in 1928 by the Nubians who were serving in the English army during the British colonization of Sudan. It was a popular sport that they practiced in Khartoum before it stopped for some time and resume in 1991 in the present form and its fans steadily increased in number among the Sudanese people, in general, and the Nubians, in particular.  


Q- Is it affiliated to the Sudanese Wrestling Association? Is it practiced by adults only?

  • It is one of the functions of the Sudanese Wrestling Association which, after its creation in 2011, endorsed this sport and placed it under its supervision. Wrestling is not confined to adults but is practiced children down to 12 years of age. There rules and regulations that govern and further develop the sport in which the two contesters wrestle for five minutes before the umpire announces the end of the round and the winner. A spectator buys a ticket for only two pounds to enjoy this exiting sport.

Q- How is participation in this sport organized and is the number of participants growing?

  • The Association includes eight clubs which bring in representatives for competition in championships held by the Association.

Q- What accomplishments has the Sudanese Wrestling Association achieved so far?

A-There are numerous accomplishments by the Association which has developed the sport. The achievements included its admission to the relevant Arab, African and international associations and participation in the African, Arab and international championships.

Q- Would you give us an idea about your participation in foreign championships?

  • The first external championship we took part in was the African one that was organized in Cairo, Egypt, in 2010 in which 12 countries contested and won the seventh place. WE also participated in the Arab championship that was held in Qatar on 6 August 2010 and Sudan came fourth and our champion Mohamed Musa Selman won the silver medal for 66kg weight. We also took part among 24 nations in an international championship that was held in Istanbul, Turkey, on 12 February 2011. Then we participated in a recent African competition that was organized in Senegal among 21 nations and we won the fourth place. In the coming few days our national team will travel to Qatar to camp there in preparation for participation in the Arab wrestling championship which will be held there next December. Our national team is made up of seven wrestlers led by Captain Mustafa Mohamed Hamad and their weights range between 96kg and 55kg.

Sudanow also interviewed wrestler Mustafa Mohamed Hamad, the Captain of the national team.

SUDANOW :How many championships have you won?

 Captain : :  I won many championships with my Secretary Eagles team before the match we won today against the Forest Lions. I also won individual matches.

QUESTION: Could you speak to us on your external participation and the results you have achieved with your team?                                                                   

ANSWER: I took part in the African championship in Cairo and the Arab championship in Qatar and we have won advanced places for the Sudan. In the African championship in Senegal we came in the sixth place and I have won the bronze medal in the Arab championship of Qatar.              

Question:  How do you feel when you win a match?                                                                                

ANSWER: I feel very happy, of course for winning the match and for making our fans happy too, particularly when it is a foreign championship and in this case the entire Sudan will be the winner.                                   

QUESTION: This sport, is it characterized by tolerance and forgiveness or vengeance?                  

ANSWER:  Basically, it is a popular sport characterized by a fine sportsmanship among the wrestlers who harbor a spirit of tolerance to an extent that the loser congratulates the winner in front of the audience. It is also characterized by fair performance of both the wrestlers and referees. It is free of any kind of vengeance and violence.                                                         

QUESTION: What kind of food does a wrestler need to have?

ANSWER: The most nourishing kind of food for a wrestler is madedah (Arabic for soup or consume ) which is a mixture millets, dates, milk and sweets that is drunk of taken with a spoon, but in the Nubba Mountains the wrestler’s main food is made of millets and milk.           

SUDANOW also made the following conversation with commentator and information officer in the Association Ustaz Mohamed Toam:

QUESTION: Could you comment on the match we have just seen?        

ANSWER: The Secretary Eagles and Forest Lions teams which played today are among the most popular and strongest teams in the Association. The Eagles won the match.                   

QUESTION: As a commentator on the matches, do you find wrestling an exciting sort of sport?          

ANSWER: Yes, it is exiting and thrilling to spectators and players; the spectators are so attracted by the game that they arrive at the arena two or three hours ahead of the match to take the most perfect positions from which they can view the match comfortably.          

QUESTION: Is this sport covered satisfactorily by the media?     

ANSWER: Yes, particularly the foreign media. The matches attract satellite TV channels such as Aljazeera, BBC, Arabiya and TV channels from Iran, Brazil and Germany and, moreover, many individual foreigners from all parts of the world come and watch the wrestling matches on this ring.