Battle of the Giants

Muslim Matters

Battle of the Giants

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS

Cultures, and waistlines, are set to clash this week in the Middle East. For the very first time, the biggest giants known to man will stomp, grunt and shove their way to victory in the tiny Gulf State of Kuwait.

No less than sixteen professional Sumo wrestlers from Japan have already landed in Kuwait to participate in the First International Sumo Competition- “The Battle of the Giants”. The Sumo wrestlers have barely lumbered into town and are already stirring up some much-needed hype (and hunger) as they engage in publicity tours around the country to promote the actual match, which takes place on April 4, 2008.

In coordination with the Japanese Embassy and the European Sumo Federation, Event Manager Kamal Ballout predicts a heavy turnout for this must-see event. “We do not have a fan base for this kind of event in Kuwait. However, anything new always brings in large crowds. We expect at least a crowd of 20,000 as the venue is still undecided but we are hoping to have it on a local beach or at Kuwait’s International Fairground,” Mr. Ballout says.

No expense has been spared in rolling out the red carpet to welcome Japan’s most hailed ‘emperors’ to the Gulf. “We have a 5-star hotel providing the Sumo wrestler’s food and accommodation. And we have enlisted a convoy of limousine ‘Hummers’ to drive them around Kuwait,” shares Mr. Ballout. In any event, if the 5-star hotel menu is not up to par to the Sumo’s refined tastes, there are at least a dozen authentic Japanese restaurants and sushi bars littered across Kuwait with the cooks being master chefs straight out of Japan.

When the event gets underway, the Sumo wrestlers will battle it out under the desert hot sands and sparkling surfs of Kuwait much to the amazement of spectators. The sheer size and girth of the Sumo wrestlers are sure to result in many a gaping mouth from spectators who have only seen glimpses of Sumo wrestling events on satellite TV. The event will be a chance to educate the Kuwaiti public about the sport of Sumo wrestling, its rules and rituals. Event organizers and sponsors also hope it will generate enough interest for holding future tournaments in the country.

The biggest setback that the event has faced so far has been in the attire of the Sumo Wrestler’s themselves. Traditionally, all Sumo wrestlers wear a ‘mawashi’ or what a layman might refer to as a ‘giant cloth diaper’. “The event was actually supposed to take place last year, however, there was a problem with the Sumo’s wearing their traditional dress,” reveals Mr. Ballout. The mawashi is a type of loin-cloth that covers only the bare minimum of the Sumo wrestler’s private area while the sides of the buttocks are typically exposed. After much debate it was decided that the Sumo wrestlers’ could wear spandex shorts so as not to transgress the bounds of a decent code of dress in an Islamic country or offend the Muslim populace.

Mr. Ballout plans to take ‘The Battle of the Giants’ tournament to other nations in the GCC and hopes to spark an interest in this centuries-old Japanese sport in the hearts of a new breed of Sumo fans home-grown right in the Middle East. 


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