Culture & Life

Njom: Most Popular Sport in Senegal

njom wrestler Balla Gaye

At the core of Senegal’s social fabric and as part of its popular culture, wrestling known as Njom in Serer, Laamb in Wolof, and Siɲɛta in Bambara is an ancient sport traditionally performed by the Serer people (third largest ethnic group in Senegal). The first known and celebrated wrestler in the Senegambia region is Boukar Djilak Faye; he lived in the kingdom of Sine in the 14th century. The longstanding tradition once steeped in stigma is now a national sport in Senegal and parts of Gambia. In the last ten years, “the sport has become a million-dollar spectacle in Senegal” – a high-profile sport.

Today wrestling is without a doubt the most popular sport in Senegal

  • Heavyweights Balla Gaye left grapples with the bulky frame of his opponent

Due to Senegal’s unfitting for wrestling hot daytime climate, the competition takes place in the evening and “often goes on until after midnight”. It takes place on sand and is usually accompanied with “rituals, hypnotic drumming, songs and dance” —  an integral part of the wrestling match. “The atmosphere and mood often evoked is that of an ancient gladiatorial fight, with plenty of wild drumming and singing”. 

Watch the short documentary of Senegalese wrestling, as experienced by Aurelien Duarte, a French professional kick-boxer, Thai boxing and Shidokan karate champion of Cape Verde origin, born in Dakar. 


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