It was fun and thrilling as the Korean Culture Center in Nigeria (KCCN) staged a Ssireum exhibition tournament to mark the 2023 Chuseok festival in Abuja on Thursday.
The one-day exhibition game which was the third edition, according to the KCCN, is to promote Korean traditional wrestling and showcase the game to the Nigerian sports community.
declaring the event open, the director of Korean Cultural Center in Nigeria (KCCN), Mr Kim Changki, said Chuseok is one of the biggest Korean holidays and is celebrated for three days to thank the heavens for a successful harvest and to be hopeful in the year ahead.
According to him, “Families gather, weave their ancestral graves, perform ancestral memorial services on Chuseok moming and the religious bow. There are varieties of activities and one of which shall be experienced here today – traditional Korean wrestling called Ssireum.
“This year’s Saireum event will be done a bit differently. As opposed to the general public, we focused only on individuals from different organizations but with a sports background, for a heightened and intense sportsman experience. We look forward to watching you all.”
He added that Ssireum, the once Korean most popular sport in the 80s and 90s, dropped because the focus was only on heavy weight wrestlers. However, its status rose again after that various lower weight classes were introduced into the game.
The chief coach of KCCN, Ogunmuyiwa Gbolahan, aside celebrating Korean cultural day, Chuseok, the aim was to showcase ssireum wrestling to Nigerian sport community further development.
“Ssireum is a Korean traditional wrestling but people who are not familiar with it, would think it is sumo, Japanese wrestling for fat people. Ssireum as well, in the beginning it used to be for fat people but it has split into different weight categories like wrestling, and we now have heavy weight, light weight and other weight categories.
“For this event, we have four categories – men and women’s heavy weight and men, and women’s light weight categories.
“Principally, what we are doing is an exhibition, showing the sport to the Nigerian community. and this is the third edition here in Nigeria.
But unlike the previous two editions that were open to the public, this year’s event we invited only people with sports backgrounds from different institutions and you can see the quality of the contest here. Some of the contestants are professional wrestlers, taekwondo and judo athletes and they are bringing their experience into the game.
“We restrained the invitation to sports people because if you want to develop a sport you have to bring people with a sports background first, they would be the ones to sell the idea to others.
“After this, we would take the game to schools. Ssireum is a sport that promotes fitness, politeness, courtesy, discipline and it is very safe to compete,” Gbolahan said.
In the women’s heavyweight class, a secondary school student, Efemena Ovuarume defeated Ella Ola of KCCN in a thrilling but keenly contested final to win the title, while Moses Amos of FRSC was crowned champion of the men’s heavy weight class beat Williams Dan of National Defence College.
In the light weight classes, Olanrewaju Abdulkarem of Nigerian Army emerged champion of the men category after defeating James Pwapiyah from the Nigerian Police, while Azazi Gift Miebi beat Marttha Martins to win women’s lightweight title.