By Alieu Ceesay in Dakar , Senegal
The Gambia Wrestling team has been eliminated by Niger in semi-final of the Group category of the 7th edition of the sub-regional traditional wrestling tournament organized by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that opened last Friday at the Stade Iba Mar Diop in the Senegalese Capital City of Dakar.
Thirteen countries within the ECOWAS sub-region are taking part in the tournament and they are, The Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Burkina Faso.
The Gambian wrestling team comprised 5 wrestlers that competed in different categories in the tournament. They are Papa Sowe for 66kg, Rambo for 76kg, Leket Bu Barra for 86kg, Viper for 100kg, and Move up Shoulder for 120kg.
The Gambia’s team was in Group D together with Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso and Togo were they finished 1st position in the group.
The team won Bissau in the 86kg, 100kg and 120kg category and lost 66kg and 76kg. Coming into the second round of the group competition, The Gambia’s team had a convincing win over Togo after winning all the categories; while defeating Burkina Faso in 86kg, 100kg and 120kg and lost 66kg and 76kg.
In other groups, Senegal, Niger and Nigeria finished top of Group A, B and C to join The Gambia in the semi-finals stages of the group category.
The Gambia’s team was eliminated in the semi finals of the group category to Niger following a controversial decision by referee who awarded a win to Niger in 100kg as a winner could not prevail. However, the Gambia’s team officials bitterly protested against the decision, which they said was unfair and baseless.
In the individual category bouts on Saturday, it was again the country’s hopeful and brightest wrestler Leket Bu Barra who individually made it through to semis in the 86kg, but an injury on his leg affected him during the combat and he therefore lost the bout to Niger. His other team mates were eliminated in the first round of the preliminaries,
In a brief statement during the well-attended colorful opening ceremony, Muhammed Abdullahi, president of the Nigerian Wrestling Federation and also vice president of West African Wrestling Federation thanked ECOWAS for organizing the event and Senegal for hosting the tournament.
While welcoming all the participating countries and wrestlers to the 7th edition, he wishes them successful and fruitful tournament.
Matar Bah, Senegalese Minister for Sports; and Alioune Sarr, President of Senegal Wrestling Federation both spoke on the importance of organizing such tournament within the sub-region. They both call for fair play during the three-day tournament.
At the time of going to press, The Gambia was facing Nigeria for the third place position of the group category, while the finals of both the group and individual categories were going on at the Stade Iba Mar Diop.
However, the respectable performance of the Gambia’s team could go unnoticed as they were continuously been given rousing applause from the cheering spectators and invited guests.
Speaking to Alieu Ceesay on the sideline, Alhaji Abdoulie Bojang, Wrestling desk officer at the National Sports said despite not being happy that the Gambia’s team was unfairly treated in the semis, he was full of praises for the wrestlers for their respectable performance in the tournament.