Sports event

Oil wrestlers will fight for glory at Turkey’s oldest sporting event

EDİRNE

The traditional Kırkpınar oil wrestling competition, Turkey’s oldest sporting event, begins today for the 660th time in the northwest province of Edirne.

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Wrestling fans and domestic and international visitors flocked to the province to witness this major event whose roots date back to the early days of the Ottoman Empire.

Doused in olive oil and clad in leather pants, wrestlers will attempt to take down their opponents on a grassy arena where Ottoman troops once trained.

More than 3,000 oil wrestlers will take part in this year’s event which will run until July 11, according to Edirne Mayor Recep Gürkan.

The event, in which wrestlers will compete in 14 different categories, will begin with Gürkan’s representative welcoming Seyfettin Selim, this year’s Kırkpınar master, to the entrance of the city.

The most important player in the competitions is traditionally called the Master Kırkpınar (Ağa in Turkish), who is in charge of inviting the wrestlers, organizing the matches, covering the financial needs of the festival and handing out the awards.

“A three-day festival”

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On the first day of the event, relatively lightweight wrestlers will face off, while the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final competitions for the big title will take place on July 11.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all entrants will be required to submit a negative PCR test taken within the last 48 hours or they will not be permitted to enter the competition.

Tracing its roots to the 14th century, Kırkpınar oil wrestling is recognized as a cultural heritage by UNESCO and is considered one of the oldest sports in the world, practiced since the Middle Ages in the Balkans.

In traditional oil wrestling, wrestlers wear leather pants, rub their bodies with olive oil, and compete on grassy fields to be the last man standing to win the title of “head wrestler” (Başpehlivan) and the right to wear the prestigious golden belt. for one year.

According to Kırkpınar rules, a wrestler must win the title of Chief Wrestler for three consecutive years in order to win the gold belt forever.

As for the head wrestler titles in the past 10 years, the golden belt has always gone to the southern province of Antalya except for 2014 and 2016.

Recent champions Mehmet Yeşil Yeşil, Ali Gürbüz, İsmail Balaban and Orhan Okulu all won the golden belt in Antalya, their hometown; only Fatih Atlı in 2014 (Black Sea Province of Samsun) and Recep Kara in 2016 (Black Sea Province of Ordu) won the title elsewhere.