After a hiatus of years caused by a pandemic, the sounds of the zurna flute and drumming drums again greeted thousands of Turkish wrestling fans who returned to the northwest of the country for a wrestling championship. of 600-year-old oil.
Last year’s contest was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. But spectators flocked en masse to the province of Edirne, on the Greek border, over the weekend to see a sport dating back to the 14th century.
For three days, competitors dressed in leather pants known as “kispet” and wrapped in olive oil fought for the title of Baspehlivani, or head-wrestler, the equivalent of the world champion sport.
This year’s tournament, the 660th to be held, saw Ali Gurbuz, from the Mediterranean province of Antalya, retain his title after a 48-minute bout with Ankara’s Ismail Koc in the grassy plaza.
The triumphant fighter was held on the shoulders of the fans so that the crowds recognized his success while playing the zurna flute and drums. This is Gurbuz’s fourth “golden belt” after the 2011, 2012 and 2019 victories.
“I’m very happy,” Gurbuz said after winning. “There was no wrestling in 2020 due to the pandemic. I became the head fighter in 2021. I hope to be the head fighter next year and be the eternal owner of the gold belt. ”
About 3,000 wrestlers took part in this year’s tournament at a field in Edirne’s Sarayici.
Edirne Mayor Recep Gurkan said the championship organizers complied with all health guidelines and restrictions to keep fans and wrestlers as close as possible to the spread of COVID-19.
“Of course, the fight against oil has its own disciplines, traditions, customs and traditions,” Gurkan said. “By God (will), we will finish the 660th pound of Kirkpinar oil that day and perform all the rituals one by one, without skipping any of them.”
Event master Seyfettin Selim said the one-year hiatus for the wrestlers affected their fitness levels, but the tournament has helped them get back in shape.
“These fighters didn’t fight for a year and we saw them here, some fainted, some lost their breath,” Selim said. “This year we have closed the gap. Hopefully, next year will be better.
The festival, one of the oldest wrestling events in the world, was listed as an intangible cultural heritage event by UNESCO in 2010.