Senegal hosts the 9th edition of the ECOWAS Traditional Wrestling Tournament

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Wrestlers compete in the Senegalese traditional wrestling match
Wrestlers compete in the Senegalese traditional wrestling match "Le Choc" at Demba Diop Stadium, Dakar, capital of Senegal, April 5, 2015. Thousands of audience have watched the biggest match here on Sunday at the beginning of the wrestling season with the most famous wrestlers Balla Gaye 2 and Eumeu Sene competing. Eumeu Sene won the match at last. (Xinhua/Li Jing)

Wrestlers from ten Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are expected from 3 to 7 November 2021 in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, to take part in the 9th edition of the ECOWAS Traditional Wrestling Tournament known as TOLAC. The tournament, organised by the ECOWAS Youth and Sports Development Centre (EYSDC), was adopted in November 1986 by the ECOWAS Council of Ministers. The first edition of the tournament was held in Niamey, Niger, in 2001 with the participation of three countries (Niger, Nigeria and Burkina Faso).

As is customary, TOLAC will start with an official opening ceremony to be graced by Honourable Matar Ba, Minister of Sports of Senegal, and Dr Siga Fatima Jagne, ECOWAS Commissioner for Social and Gender Affairs, before the bouts begin at the National Wrestling Arena in Dakar. Prior to that, technical officials and referees will attend a two-day refresher course and special meetings will be organised for technical officials and federations to familiarise them with the rules and regulations, as well as the new trends concerning the running of the tournament.

For this 9th edition, ten (10) countries out of the fifteen (15) ECOWAS Member States are expected in Dakar. Togo, Liberia and Cabo Verde will be the major countries to miss out on this year’s tournament, in addition to Mali and Guinea which are excluded from the competition due to the sanctions imposed on them by the West African regional organisation. Other partners from international wrestling organisations based in Pakistan, Turkey and Rwanda will also take part in the competition as observers.

The 2021 edition of TOLAC, which could not be held in Dakar in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, aims to (i) promote regional integration and development through sports; (ii) promote African values and the advancement of authentic regional sports through development and promotion of traditional sports and culture; (iii) strengthen the ECOWAS Traditional Wrestling Tournament with a view to placing African wrestling on the world sports map and making it a widely practised sport internationally.

As well as these first three objectives, the project also aims to embed COVID-19 sports protocols and preventive measures in wrestling tournaments in West Africa, to empower the youth through their active participation in sports, and build the technical capacity of African wrestling officials and referees.

It is recalled that TOLAC started with only three countries. It has grown in leaps and bounds and regularly records the participation of 14 of the 15 ECOWAS countries, thus affirming the fact that wrestling is an intrinsic traditional sport in the region. This growth is the result of sustained work by the West African regional organisation coupled with innovations introduced along the way to develop the sport. The coding and standardisation of TOLAC’s technical rules and regulations and partnership with the region’s sports federations have also played a key role in the growing popularity of the sport in the Community.

Already featuring in the Francophone Games since the 2005 edition held in Niamey, traditional wrestling has received special attention from EYSDC with the aim to promote the practice of this sport in the ECOWAS region and give it, with time, a universal recognition through its inclusion in the Olympic Games (OG).

The goal of the Youth and Sports Development Centre based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, is to develop two key factors, namely the geographical expansion of wrestling and raising the technical level of the sport. To this end, the Centre has come up with an ambitious programme that are in line with the four pillars of development of any sport, particularly the organisation of competitions, training of referees, coaches and teaching materials, capacity building of national federations, and finally, the development of sports infrastructure.

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