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Cawyaŋ Zarma Sanni

row of straw huts on the road to Zinder

Sport: traditional wrestling

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Introduction video list of finals references

The Fight

The fight takes place in a ring with a diameter of between 16 to 20 metres bordered by sand bags and ropes. The soil within the ring is covered with fine sand[t,y].

The wrestler fight torso naked, wearing shorts or most often a «walki» (boxer shorts made of goat skin)[y]. Actions aiming to all parts of the body are allowed. There is no classification by weight.

Wresters in Zinder
The fight passes upright. The wrestlers rub their hands with sand to ascertain a better grip on their opponent. The winner is he who gets his rival to touch the soil by any part of his body with the exception of the feet and hands[t] or manages to get his opponent in a 'wheelbarrow' or 'in the air' position[y].
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The wrestlers are accompanied by traditional medicine men or story tellers (griots), by «Tchali tchali», who entertain the public with there imitations of the fights, and by drummers of the «ganga» (tam-tam). These are important persons for the success of the games. The traditional medicine men prepare there heroes for the fight. Fighters are often soaked with pungent smelling perfume (magic mixtures) and wear a girdle with talismans[c]. The opponents are not allowed to tear off the others girdle[t].

Tchali-tchali, tradional medicine man supporting wrestlers
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An arbitration board supervises and coordinates the fight. This 3-men board consists of the national technical director of wrestling, a timekeeper, and a person who keeps the score[y]. Also within the ring a trio is responsible, a senior referee and two assistants. Each of the assistants wears a pennant corresponding with the colours of the girdle of one of the wrestlers assigned by lot[y].

More wrestling 

Dosso 2016

Agadez 2015

Diffa 2014

Niamey 2013

Maradi 2012

Tillabéri 2010

Tahoua 2009

Dosso 2008

Agadez 2007

Zinder 1986

List of finalists
of wrestling games since 1975
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The winner receives a plated sabre symbol of the national wrestling champion title or king of the ring, a horse with saddle equipment, a turban and «boubou» (long tunica), an amount of money from the state and many other gifts[d,y].

In recent years the amount of money for the winner more than tripled from 3 to 10 million FCFA. Also the total mount of money involved in the games has increased significantly from 15 million in 1975 to 70 million FCFA in 2010[ad]. In 2013, the state contributed for about 30 million FCFA[ah].

Not only the winner receives money and gifts. In 2013, the state gave each participating wrestler (16 per team) two sacs of rice and two sacs of millet and about 100.000 FCFA. For each team, the state gave per person a sac of rice, a sac of millet and 100.000 FCFA for a medicine man / story teller (griot), for a tchali-tchali and for two ancient wrestlers. The state also payed for four drivers per team (each 100.000 FCFA)[ah].

Winner championship 2009
Photo Niger diaspora
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The national traditional wrestling championship was introduced by the military government of Seïni Kountché in 1975 in order to valorise the national culture[a,b]. Each of the eight regions of Niger has a delegation of about ten wrestlers[u].

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In older days

Before traditional wrestling was practiced all over the country for a very long time. The local games were in earlier times organised after the harvest period to celebrate gathering in the harvest[e,t]. In Zarma society wrestling has always been considered as a simple demonstration of force. In the Touareg society wrestling was practiced as a duel. The two wrestlers were attached to each other to force them to compete without backing out[f].

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More information

Additional back ground information on traditional wrestling in Niger (in French) can be found in the book of Jean-Yves Ruszniewski [KoKowa : La lutte traditionnelle au Niger].

More information on wrestling in general is available at wrestlingbest.com.

front page  book KoKoWa lutte traditionelle
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Traditional wrestling:  Rites in Niger, developments and perspectives (in French)

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List of finalists of the
traditional wrestling games of Niger [e]

Edition, place of games, date, duration, source winning finalist (region) Prize (FCFA) losing finalist
37th, Dosso
17 Januari 2016,
, 35m7s [ap, aq]
Kadri Abdou dit Issaka Issaka,
10 million Adamou Abdou,
36th, Agadez
22 March 2015,

1m44s, [am, an]
Kadri Abdou dit Issaka Issaka,
10 million Sabo Abdou,
35th, Diffa,
16 March 2014
, 56m19s [ai, aj,ak,al]
Yacouba Adamou
10 million Ibrahim Namata
34th, Niamey, 3 March 2013, 13m [ag] Alio Salaou,
(no final, see text losing finalist)
10 million Aboubacar Yacouba,
Niamey, lost in semi-final against Alio Salaou. In the
other semi-final, Yacouba Adamou ( Niamey) and Abdoulaye Moussa (Maradi), both lost due to exceeding maximum time of 45 minutes
33rd, Maradi,
4 March 2012
13m [af, ae]
Laminou Maidaba (27y/100kg), Agadez 10 million Yacouba Adamou,
32nd, Tillabéri,
26 December 2010
18m [ab, ac]
Oumarou Ali dit Bindigao (35y), Maradi 10 million Boubé Boureima,
31st, Zinder,
21 February 2010,
1m05s [y,z,aa]
Laminou Maidaba (24y/80kg), Agadez 5 million Mahamadou Anafi,
30th, Taoua,
8 March 2009,
[w,x] [preliminaries]
Laminou Maidaba (23y/75kg), Agadez 2 million Harouna Abdou (31y/120kg), Tahoua
29th , Dosso
2 March 2008,
Harouna Abdou (30y/118kg), Tahoua[i] 2 million Oumarou Ali dit Bindigao (33y/96kg), Maradi
28th , Agadez,
16 February 2007,
, [g,i]
Harouna Abdou (29y/115kg), Tahoua[i] 3 million Idrissa Natabawa (28y/80kg), Maradi
27th , Diffa,
26 March 2006,
7m, [b,j,k,l]
Oumarou Ali dit Bindigao (31y/95kg), Maradi 1 million Harouna Abdou (28y/90kg), Tahoua[i]
No games in 2005 due to 5th Francophone Games held in Niger  [k]
No games in 2004  [k]
26th , Niamey,
2003,  [b,k,m,n,u]
Mahamadou Abdoulkarim, Niamey 2 million Dari Worno,
25th , Maradi,
9 February 2002,
2m10s, [b,k,f]
Balla Harouna (34y),
  Ibrahim Tchiama,
24th , Tillabéri,
2001 [d]
Hassane Adamou,
  Harouna Abdou (24y), Tahoua
23rd , Zinder,
26 November 2000,  [o,p,q]
Issa Gazagourou (25y), Tahoua 1 million Daouda Abdou,
22nd , Dosso,
1999, [b,k,m]
Balla Harouna (31y),
  Badamassi Alassane,
21st , Tahoua, 13 December 1998 [k,m,v] Mahamadou Idi dit Commando, Tahoua   Badamassi Alassane,
No games in 1997
20th , Agadez,
1996, > > 2h [a,b,m]
Balla Harouna,
  Nouhou Moumouni,
Maradi (Dosso?)
19th , Diffa,
Badamassi Alassane,
  Mahamadou Idi,
18th , Zinder,
Labo Maïkaho,
  Badamassi Alassane,
17th , Maradi,
Badamassi Alassane,
  Barmou Lalé,
16th , Tahoua,
Labo Maïkafo,
  Balla Harouna,
15th , Niamey,
Ada Masko,
  Oumarou Maty,
14th , Dosso,
Mahamdou Idi,
  Badamassi Alassane,
13th , Agadez,
Sani Moumouni,
  Labo Maïkafo,
No games in 1988
12th , Diffa,
Naroua Sanou,
  Saïyadi Assoutane,
11th , Zinder,
Ousseini Kataki,
  Naroua Sanou,
No games in 1985
10th , Dosso,
Issoufou Aboubacar,
  Kassou Kazuga,
9th , Maradi,
1983,  [r]
Kassou Kazuga,
  Issoufou Aboubacar,
8th , Tahoua,
Langa Langa,
  Kassou Kazouga,
7th , Niamey,
Balla Kado,
  Langa Langa,
6th , Agadez,
Yacouba Ango dit Kantou,  Maradi   Balla Kado,
5th , Diffa, 1979 Salma Dan Rani (32y), Dosso[s]   Salami Mato,
4th , Zinder,
1978, [d]
Yacouba Ango dit Kantou,  Maradi   Salma Dan Rani,
3rd , Dosso,
1977, [d]
Yacouba Ango dit Kantou,  Maradi   Kadadé,
2nd , Maradi,
Salma Dan Rani (29y), Dosso[s]   Kadadé,
1st , Tahoua,
Yacouba Ango dit Kantou,  Maradi   Bawa Doutchi
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[a] Robert Bourgoing (1997). Lutte traditionnelle : sport, argent et pouvoir. Bourgoing.com, mars 1997 [web].
[b] AFP (2006). Niger: Début du championnat de lutte traditionnel au Niger. TSR.ch, 17 mars 2006 [web].
[c] Djibril Saidou (2007). Un après-midi dans une arène de lutte au Niger. Agence de Presse Africaine, 26 février 2007 [web].
[d] Ousmane Keïta (2008). 29e championnat national de lutte traditionnelle. «Le bison de Tamaské» se succède à lui-même. Le Républicain, 6 mars 2008 [web].
[e] APA (2008). Les icônes de la lutte traditionnelle, au Niger. Agence de Presse Africaine, 25 février 2008 21h10 [web].
[f] Saidou Djibril (2003). NIGERAMA, Lutte traditionnelle : 25e édition du championnat national. Finale mystique à Maradi. TelQuel, no. 2, pages 7-8, mars 2003 [pdf].
[g] APA (2008). Les innovations du Championnat nigérien de lutte traditionnelle. Agence de Presse Africaine, 25 février 2008 20h38 [web].
[h] Anonymes (2008). Lutte Traditionnelle au NIGER le championnat 2008. Fédération de Gouren, 17 février 2008 [web].
[i] APA (2007). Harouna Abdou sacré champion national de lutte 2007 du Niger. Agence de Presse Africaine, 25 février 2007 [web].
[j] XINHUA (2006) Oumarou Bindigaou, nouveau champion de lutte traditionnelle au Niger. Nigerportal.com, 27 mars 2006 [web].
[k] APA (2008). Lutte traditionnelle, Harouna Abdou, Taureau de l’Ader conserve son titre. 29ÈME championnat de lutte traditionnelle au Niger. Sunu AMB no 108, 20 septembre 2008 [web].
[l] APA (2006). Deux Nigériens champions du monde de lutte de plage. Agence de Presse Africaine, 15 novembre 2006 15h19  [web].
[m] Yannick Ousmane Keïta (2006). Décès de Ali Ali. La lutte traditionnelle perd un de ses espoirs. Nigerportal.com, 3 février 2006 [web].
[n] XINHUA (2004). Niger : Mahamadou Abdoulkarim, champion national de lutte traditionnelle 2004. French.xinhuanet.com [web].
[o] Ignace Jeannerat (2000) Corps à corps pour un sabre. Le Temps du Monde, 1 décembre 2000  [web].
[p] Arimi Abba (2000) Lutte traditionnelle. Une bonne finale pour un championnat bâclé. Journal Alternative, 30 novembre 2000 [web].
[q] Arimi Abba (2000) Lutte traditionnelle. Crise de croissance de la lutte... nigérienne. Journal Alternative, 24 novembre 2000  [web].
[r] Mahaman L. Sériba (2005) La lutte traditionnelle au Niger: entre volontarisme étatique et symbolisme ancestral. Tydskrif vir Letterkunde, 42 (2) 2005, pages 239-253 [pdf].
[s] Anonymes (2008). Salma Dan Rani, élégance et fair-play. Planète Afrique.com, 22 février 2008. [web].
[t] Frédéric Loyer () Les luttes traditionnelles dans le monde. Luttes Nigériennes. Fédération Française de Lutte, visited on 16 January 2009 [web].
[u] Idy Baraou (2003) Wrestling captivates Niger. BBC News, 7 February 2003 [web].
[v] Dan-Bouzoua Ali (1998) Championnat national de lutte traditionnelle. 20 décembre 1998 [web].
[w] APA (2009) Laminou Maidaba d’Agadez, sacré champion 2009 de lutte traditionnelle du Niger. 8 mars 2009 [web].
[x] Oumarou Moussa (2009) Fin de la 30ème édition du championnat national de lutte traditionnelle, Tahoua 2009 : Laminou Maïdaba d'Agadez, champion national. Le Sahel, 10 mars 2009 [web].
[y] Djibril Saidou (2010)  La lutte, sport-roi du Niger tient son 31ème championnat du 12 au 21 février à Zinder. Nigerdiaspora.info 09 janvier 2010 [web].
[z] Alfa Amadou (2010) Fin du 31ème championnat national de lutte traditionnelle à Zinder : 2ème sabre pour Laminou Maidabba. Championnat national de lutte traditionnelle 2010. Nigerdiaspora.info 21 février 2010 [web].
[aa] Afrique Avenir (2010) Laminou Maidaba conserve son titre de champion de lutte au Niger.  Afrique Avenir, 21 février 2010 [web1, web2].
[ab]  Issaka Saïdou & Laouali Souleymane (2010) Fin, hier à Tillabéry, de la 32ème édition du championnat national de lutte traditionnelle : Oumarou Ali Bindigao remporte le sabre et dix (10) millions de FCFA. Nigerdiaspora.net / Sahel, 27 Décembre 2010 [web1, pdf].
[ac] Ali Abdou (2011) Interview avec le champion 2010 de la Lutte traditionnelle Oumarou Bindigaou.  Nigerdiaspora.net / Garkuwa, 5 Janvier 2011 [web1, pdf].
[ad] APA News (2010) Le champion 2010 de lutte traditionnelle recevra une récompense de 10 millions FCFA, une première au Niger. APA / souslemanguier.com, 18 Decembre 2010 [web].
[ae] Laouali Souleymane (2012) Installation du comité chargé de l’organisation de la 33ème édition du sabre national de lutte traditionnelle : le grand rendez-vous du sport roi se déroulera à Maradi, du 24 février au 4 mars 2012. Nigerdiaspora.info 4 février 2012 [web] / Sahel Dimanche, 3 février 2012, page 8.
[af] Nigerdiaspora.net (2012) 33ème édition du Sabre National : Laminou Maidaba remporte le Sabre National. Dimanche 04 Mars 2012, 22:12 [web].
[ag] Seini Seydou Zakaria (2013) fin de la 34ème édition du sabre national de lutte traditionnelle : Alio Salaou, sacré champion national 2013. Nigerdiaspora.net, 04 march 2013, 17:57 [web] / Le Sahel, 4 Mars 2013, page 16.
[ah] Anonymus (2013) Championnat du Sabre national de lutte traditionnelle : Le Chef de l'Etat attribue des dons d'une valeur totale de 30.100.000 FCFA. Le Sahel online [web]
[ai] Laouali Souleymane (2014) 6ème journée des compétitions de la 35ème édition du Sabre National de lutte traditionnelle : Plus que six (6) prétendants au sabre. Nigerdiaspora.info, vendredi, 14 mars 2014 06:53 [web]
[aj] Mamane Abdou (2014) Fin de la 35ème édition du sabre national : Les ratés de l’édition 2014. Nigerdiaspora.info, samedi, 22 mars 2014 10:47 [web]
[ak] Mahamane Amadou ONEP Dosso (2014) Dosso/Retour triomphal des lutteurs : Le vice-champion reçoit un accueil populaire. Nigerdiaspora.info, mercredi, 19 mars 2014 21:45 [web]
[al] Fin de la 35ème édition du Sabre national de lutte traditionnelle : Le triomphe de Yacouba Adamou de Niamey. Nigerdiaspora.info, mardi, 18 mars 2014 09:50 [web]
[am] Laouali Souleymane (2015) Ouverture de la 36eme édition du Sabre National de Lutte Traditionnelle Agadez 2015 : Dans la fraternité et le fair-play. Le Sahel Dimanche, 13 Mars, 2015 [web]
[an] Laouali Souleymane (2015) Fin, hier, à Agadez de la 36eme édition du Sabre National : Issaka Issaka de Dosso, champion. Le Sahel Dimanche, 22 Mars 2015 [web].
[ap] Laouali Souleymane (2015) Sabre National de Lutte Traditionnelle : Dosso à l'honneur pour la 37ème édition. Match, 20 December, 2015 [web]
[aq] Laouali Souleymane (2016) 37ème édition du Sabre National de lutte traditionnelle : Kadri Abdou dit Issaka Issaka de Dosso, champion pour la 2ème fois consécutive. ActuNiger, 18 January 2016 [web] [original: le Sahel].
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