The young migrants turning to Canary Island wrestling

By Laura Herrera

Gáldar, Gran Canaria, Spain, Dec 14 (efe-epa).- Mahamadou Toure, 16, is from Mali and prefers to go by his nickname ‘elephant.’

He arrived in the Canary Islands 10 months ago and has decided to follow in the footsteps of his fellow countryman Mamadou ‘Camara’ Danthioko, a recognized figure in Canarian wrestling who also arrived in the Spanish territory by patera — a small boat often used in irregular migration between the African continent and the Atlantic islands.

Toure trains twice a week at the Unión Gáldar wrestling club in the north of Gran Canaria, the second-most populous island after Tenerife. He is joined by other teens from Mali and Mauritania who have also set their eyes on the ring.

Around 100 unaccompanied minors live together at a recently-constructed center in Gáldar. Toure, who stays at the center, said he chose wrestling as an extracurricular activity given his passion for fighting.

The young Malian hopes to learn the secrets of the traditional Canary Island sport “little by little,” just like Mamadou Camara, who also arrived in the Canary Islands aged 16, back in 2008.

“I like it a lot,” Toure tells Efe, adding that also the sport does not exist in Mali, he was aware of it thanks to the publicity surrounding Camara.

The new season got underway at the Gáldar club in November, but Covid health restrictions mean that full physical contact between competitors is not allowed. Wrestlers are focusing on physical training for the time being.

Rayco Ramírez, the head of the Gáldar wrestling club, says: “We all made it clear that until it’s safe and we have a clear protocol, the wrestling teams in Gran Canaria would not begin competing.”

He estimates that grappling in the ring won’t be back until mid-2021.

Ramírez adds that the members of the club were more than happy to welcome the new-comers arriving from Mali and Mauritania amid wider concerns that the sport is ceding popularity among local youth.

In a bid to counter that, the wrestling club has relaunched its youth category training this year.

With coronavirus regulations effectively putting the wrestling season on pause, there are worries at the club that youngsters will turn to other sports that are permitted under the current rules.

There are just over 30 members of the club’s youth system in addition to the young migrants who have joined the team.

“For the time that they are here, we wanted them to feel honored, part of the group and to get involved with what is the hallmark of our identity,” the president says. EFE-EPA


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