By Sulayman Bah
The ending was predicted but the duration of the bout took many aback.
Manduwar is one of those stars one would question how he made it into A-list wrestlers’ category.
In a division comprising towering heavyweight figures measuring, sometimes twice his height, one would be forgiven to tip him to get beat up each time he goes into the arena.
Huge physique is a determining factor in surviving in this category of Gambia’s wrestling pyramid. He has none of those traits common with most wrestlers but still gets around oppositions with efforts that defy his size.
If ever a myriad of pint-sized persons take up the sport, he would be the inspiration.
Hailing from around the West Coast Region, Manduwar, has forced many fans off their feet with his wowing displays. Reliant on technique as a cover for his poor height, speed and agility are other features he can be spoken highly of.
From triumphs, defeats and draws –he has tasted all flavours the sport provides. Last Sunday at the Independence Stadium, was without doubt the toughest test of his career as he battled arguably the biggest man in the arena Yaya Jammeh, not related to the erstwhile Gambian president in anyway.
It has been virtually everyone’s prediction that he was in for a beating of his life with most dismissing him as standing no chance whatsoever to edge over his mammoth opponent from the Gambia Police Force’s Wrestling Club.
From strength down to agility including grappling, he was the underdog in every aspect of the game.
Hitting, retreating and dancing around the arena is the recommended technique for a diminutively built wrestler to maneuver around when squaring a heavyweight? But Manduwar, to the shock of spectators, disregarded all that and in fact made for Jammeh at whistle of start, daring to take his adversary head on. A grapple ensued as both wrestlers went for each other’s smalls in a frenzy. Jammeh gathered his opposition man, tucking both hands underneath Manduwar aimed at lifting him off the ground in a deaf move which, if perfectly implemented, would have been the sort of embarrassment that could sanction any fledging career to its early grave.
Reading his opponent well, Manduwar responded with his best of the game, planting his head on his adversary’s left shoulder then swerving to the right with relative ease to the right to Yaya’s consternation.
The crowd cheered in approval to the Club Jeff Jell (Manduwar) juggernaut’s antics, frustrating Jammeh who appeared to be running short of ideas as the time wore on. Similar flow followed going into the first-half. Resumption of proceedings had the two peppering blows at each other as a by now, emboldened Manduwar rushed to grab Jammeh, who responded with successive deterring blows as the referee ordered Manduwar to check up with the medics as he bled somewhat around the face. The fight’s rhythm continued on restart with Manduwar trying twice tangling his right foot against his opponent’s left leg to throw him backwards without success.
However, twist in the showdown occurred with just a minute before end of the combat. The fight was already headed for a draw before the referee halted the clash to deduct Jammeh of points for blowing Manduwar on the back of the head, a thing considered a severe foul in wrestling parlance.
Knowing he’s now disadvantaged, Yaya sought to end the game launching an all-out onslaught. Manduwar buckled under pressure as on uppercut landed prompting him to lose balance, falling little sideways into the sands amid cacophony. Jammeh’s entourage, hanging around the barricade all this while, ran to besiege the arena as the stadium blew in rambunctious jubilation. It was a night that reminded the hundred wrestling mad fans that Manduwar remain a relevant figure and not the small-man object of walkover as has been put out by most pundits in the lead up to the tussle.
Though Manduwar ended up losing he walked out of the arena with respect to his name.