Sun, Sep 08, 2013 - Page 6 News List

FEATURE: Barefoot Japanese diplomat wrestles for peace in Sudan

SPORTS DIPLOMACY:The diplomat said he hopes to highlight traditional Nuba wrestling, which the sport’s administrators say can unite the country after many wars

AFP, KHARTOUM

And that is Muro’s wish, as he sits on the edge of the circular red-earth pitch, stretching before his latest match.

Fans have taken up every inch of the stadium, which was built by the Khartoum state government a year ago.

They even perch atop the concrete wall, moving to the rhythmic music played between bouts.

Small boys lugging plastic containers of drinking water and silver cups squeeze through the crowd, while women sell trays of snacks.

Far away, people are fighting and dying in Sudan’s wars, but in the stadium, fans from different parts of the country have come together in joy.

“I think this wrestling can have a role in ending racism in Sudan,” said Mutasim Ahmed, who is from North Kordofan and is a regular spectator.

A Darfur native, Abdurrahman Tajideen, said he supported local boy Mudiriya because “he is representing Sudan.”

The widening appeal of the sport to people like Tajideen from other ethnic groups means it could help bring peace to the country and the Nuba region in particular, said wrestling fan Hafiz Sulaiman, a Nuba.

Sulaiman was hoping for a Muro victory “because he lost three matches and still came back. This means he has good will.”

Hands raised, concentrating in a half-crouch, the two wrestlers move cautiously, pawing each other like cats as the match begins.

The pace picks up. Mudiriya holds Muro around the waist and pulls him into the dirt before the Japanese twists around.

Mudiriya is on his back. Muro raises his arms, as if in victory.

No, not yet.

They play on, Mudiriya’s left shoulder dusted with dirt.

After about three minutes he puts Muro on the ground again. Game over. Mudiriya wins.

“A lion! He’s a lion!” a female fan calls in his honor as the two athletes are hoisted up by others.

“Muro’s tactics were completely different from last time and his skill has improved,” a sweating Mudiriya says.

“He’s a very good wrestler,” the Japanese diplomat says, vowing a return to the ring.

“I cannot withdraw until I get at least one victory,” he adds.

A win in Khartoum would, he hopes, pave the way for a bout in the wrestling heartland of Nuba itself.

“It will be a very good message for peace,” Murotatsu says.

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