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It is hot. But there’s almost nothing you won’t do to catch a glimpse of the event in front of you, along with tens of thousands of other people. There’s dancing, music, and wrestling. Except they’re punching each other. It’s one of the most bizarre and entertaining combat sports in the world. Senegalese wrestling is a phenomenon in its country of Senegal, much like Dambe in Nigeria. Today, we’re speaking to one of those wrestlers: Pathé Mbeurou Askanewi Boye, also known as Big Pato.
“Hello, my name is Big Pato,” he introduces himself. Boye is quite cordial and kind. “I started wrestling in 2011. I was champion of Senegal and I had integrated wrestling to encourage young people to study before playing sports.”
That is one of Big Pato’s missions. To educate students. In Senegal, like the United States, hundreds of kids give up school for a dream at playing sports. The popularity of Senegalese wrestling in Senegal produces the same issues in its youth as well. It’s that youth that’s really the motivating factor for Big Pato. He really uses the platform he’s built to reach out to those youth.
“Today I can be satisfied to have practiced Senegalese wrestling because it gave me opportunities on a lot of things and made me a model for the youth.”
Like many other athletes in combat sports, Senegalese wrestling isn’t the only thing Big Pato does. Big Pato is actually the first ever Senegalese wrestler and police officer. Over everything he’s accomplished, Big Pato says that is his greatest accomplishment.
“My main achievements are above all the fair play installed in the fight, the public relationship between the national police and the population and especially the fact of being the first police wrestler in the history of Senegalese wrestling. I managed to export the Senegalese wrestling with a well-mastered communication.”
Big Pato on the Sport of Senegalese Wrestling
Senegalese wrestling is majorly popular. With stadiums having capacities of up to 20,000 spectators, Senegalese wrestling fills up stadiums. The sport is growing rapidly as well with athletes finding new ways to make a living for them and their families.
“Senegalese wrestling is popular because it is a very local sport. All my Senegalese friends practically watches, even the President of the Republic. Everyone is there, not counting today. It has become a livelihood for the new generation. The television channels are snapping up the wrestlers to get audiences and that brings a lot of visibility. I even have my YouTube channel, #bigpatotv.”
As mentioned, the Senegalese wrestling matches are absolutely packed with roaring fans. It can be intimidating at first, but Big Pato says eventually he got used to the size of the events. He eventually says he got to where he thrived on the crowd.
“It is always a motivation for me to be in front of this huge crowd to give my all and make them happy. it’s not always easy but over the course of the fights we got used to it. finally it galvanizes me.”
In the west, the most popular Senegalese wrestler is by far Oumar Kane, better known as Reug Reug. In his transition to mixed martial arts, Reug Reug has started out 3-1 with three knockouts. Transitioning and having success so early, Big Pato says that he’s not surprised by his well-doing. With where he comes from, Big Pato says he believes Reug Reug can have a fantastic career.
“Reug Reug’s success does not surprise me because his elders, Rocky Balboa and Bombardier, traced his voice and he integrated well. Today I think that if he corrects his martial arts techniques he will be able to have an exceptional career.”
Big Pato has used and will continue to use his voice for a change for good in his community. He’s dedicated his life to being better and making every minute on this planet count for bettering the world.
“Apart from the police, I work in the national police and I do a lot in the social. I have achieved a lot of things in the social sector and today my objectives remain to give a better image for the fight and the national police and to create a new type of citizen.”
Big Pato is a prime example of what a Senegalese wrestler, and a martial artist as a whole, should be. His career after competing will eclipse the greatness he achieved while competing and will make his country a better place.