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Naga Wrestling: The highest grossing sport in Nagaland

Naga Wrestling: The highest  grossing sport in Nagaland

Atono Tsükrü Kense
Kohima | February 12

Naga wrestling is by far the highest grossing sporting event in the State of Nagaland. 

The traditional grappling sport, an integral part of the Tenyimias since ‘time immemorial,’ is loved by both young and old, and men and women alike.

The Naga wrestling tournament organised by the Nagaland Wrestling Association (NWA) nets an astounding total of more than Rs 70 lakhs per tournament, making it the highest revenue generating sports event in the state. 

Football events, which also dominate the sporting calendar in Nagaland, meanwhile net about Rs 10-15 lakhs per tournament, which is not even half of the revenue generated from wrestling events. Naga wrestling also carries the highest prize money among all other sports events in the state level.


History of organised wrestling

According to the records of the Naga Wrestling Association (NWA), though wrestling is as old as Naga history, organised wrestling is a recent phenomenon. It was learnt that the Federal Government of Nagaland (FGN) under Japfu state initiated the wrestling meet to provide a platform to the wrestlers of various villages of the Tenyimia Nagas, and also to honour their republic day functions in the years 1965-67.

The first Naga wrestling tournament was held on May 20, 1971 with no individual championship but multiple champions. It was in the year 1972 that individual championship was introduced, which later became a tradition. 

Recognizing the tremendous logistical pressure to organise such a mega event annually, the decision to organise the event biennially was decided in the year 1974.


Wrestlers become more professional

NWA President, Neivikuolie Khatsü revealed that revenue amounting to more than Rs 70-75 lakh is being generated each tournament, while the management of ground is normally tendered to certain parties. 

Naga wrestling is also an event which attracts spectators of all ages from all walks of life, said Khatsü. 

The 2018 tournament drew the most unprecedented crowd, he added.

Even as the sport is becoming more popular and wrestlers have become more professional, he was disappointed that there is still lack of required support. At the same time, Khatsü informed that it has streamlined and organised referring, judging and even videography review system has been introduced.

Nonetheless, Khatsü observed that there is need to develop Naga wrestling into higher level as there are lots of disparities in the arena as there are no weight categories in the Naga form of wrestling, unlike belt and freestyle wrestling.

He also stated confidently that wrestlers can earn a livelihood, with the best wrestlers earning about Rs 5-6 lakh in a year.


Words of advice from champions

Former NWA Champion 2010, Megosier Khate and International medalist 2017, Keduovilie Zumu expressed their ardent love for Naga traditional wrestling among other sports and games. 

Besides the recognition, fame, respect and remuneration, the champions cited the health benefits of the grappling sport, and today, due to their meritorious performance in wrestling, both of them have been gainfully employed in the government sector.

The former champions concurred that wrestling should not be a seasonal activity for any wrestler, but that one should maintain consistency by exercising and keep oneself fit and healthy “ready to wrestle anytime anywhere.”

Zumu, the first Naga wrestler to win a medal at an international arena, observed that local wrestlers focus too much on diet and fail to maintain fitness. This, he said needs to be changed if one aspires to compete at the national and international levels.

As traditional Naga wrestling gains momentum, the NWA is making tremendous efforts towards promoting the wrestlers as well as the sport at the national and international levels.


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