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Senegalese Wrestling: Former ECOWAS Wrestling Champion in Emergency Surgery

Ex-Ecowas wrestling champion Yakhya Diop this week went under the knife in an emergency procedure for a troubling knee injury.

Fondly dubbed Yekini in the arena, a name he drives from Kaduna-born and former African Footballer of the Year the late Rashid Yekini, Diop was admitted at Dakar-based Hospital Center De Fann to undergo a correction procedure on his knee, a day after announcing his retirement from wrestling at 42.

The erstwhile Senegalese King of Arena’s decision to call time on his 24-year career came much as a shock.

Yekini’s move not to give reasons for calling it quit has inevitably fueled speculations in the media amid riffed reports suggesting the Jaol-born chooses to opt out to avoid his towering reputation from ripped to shreds.

The arena, now a multi-million industry and an occupation avenue to a proliferation of energetic youths, Yakhya remains the most revered for his part in not only championing the professionalization of the sport but as well for boasting a tall order feat of going on a 17-year win stretch –tasting defeat only on two occasions and a draw just once.

Those loses, the first against Balla Gaye in which he relinquished the King of Arena title in the process, came on a back-to-back.

His second defeat being the latest, July this year, to another youngster in an otherwise disastrous attempt of a return to the arena, has seen more questions raised than answers over the Team Dakar leader’s insistence to continue wrestling.

And aware of the risk involved in battling younger wrestlers which could, should he continue to endure loses, potentially bring his reputation to tatters,  it is for this reason that, it’s believed, Yekini decided to call time on his career.

Other reports claim Yakhya Diop made the bold pronouncement to bow out against his will owing to a niggling knee injury sustained before he bit the dust to Lac de Guier.

The abrasion it is said, has long bothered the former champion but kept it away from the public out of respect for his contract.

The 42-year-old had a secret check up over worries of inflammation on the affected knee area three days prior to the fight but still decided against talking about it for fear cancellation of the bout could trigger fan revolt giving supporters of both wrestlers are known to be restless and violent.

And as a result, Yekini chose to wait three months after the combat to get the procedure done, according to sources close to the wrestler.

However, what’s clear though is that the former Ecowas champion went under the knife on Thursday –initially scheduled for Italy – and is understood to be recuperating, according to a colleague journalist in Senegal.

He will be missed

Different from the conventional art of wrestlers grabbing each other’s smalls in a bout of strict technique popular across Africa, Senegalese wrestling is a treasured national sport demanding of severe boxing.

Yékini will go on to help the sport’s rise with his fights winning the attention of chunk of companies who would chip in as event sponsors in a move that has not only reignite people’s love for the ancient art but accelerate its growth, dislodging football from its perch as the nation’s most favoured sport.

Today, a single combat in a year can yield top wrestlers up to $200,000 courtesy of years of tireless lobbying by fight promoters and the Senegalese Wrestling Federation using Yekini as poster boy in their marketing endeavors.

So popular is Senegalese “Borreh Dorr” –wrestling mixed with punching – that a grand combat could , according to statistics, rake up million plus views from abroad with the biggest audience coming from the continent.

There wouldn’t be a mention of this fast rising sport without a distinctive elaboration of the flurry of feats attained by this mammoth giant.

Diop is the sole wrestler, from the Serre, a tribe of fisher folks, to go on a stretch of 17 years without tasting defeat making it all the more difficult for a wrestler of his caliber to resurface.

For this, he will be missed.

Balla Gaye II, 30, the first man to whip Yekini in 2012, today reacted to the latter’s retirement paying homage via his faceebook page as thus: “I was overcome by sadness and the same time pride on hearing the announcement of your retirement”

“You are and will remain, without doubt, the best wrestler that Senegalese arena has ever known. Happy to have had the chance to face you. You are a typical example of a complete wrestler, by your sportsmanship, your elegance, your discipline and your incomparable talent,” he says.


Featured Photo: courtesy of Getty Images

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