SUMO/ 1st rikishi from Africa makes debut in Osaka

March 13, 2012

By SHUHEI NOMURA / Staff Writer

Japan's ancient sport of sumo has now truly gone global.

Professional sumo has seen successful rikishi from Hawaii, Mongolia and even Europe over the years. Now, for the first time, a wrestler from the African continent has entered the dohyo.

Twenty-year-old Osunaarashi from Egypt made an auspicious debut at the current basho at the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium on March 13 by scooping up his opponent in a "maezumo" bout for unranked wrestlers.

With some Japanese words mixed in, he told reporters that this was just his first step. His dream is to become a yokozuna, he added, with a smile on his face.

Osunaarashi, whose real name is Abdelrahman Alaa Eldin Mohamed Ahmed Sharan, was born and raised in Giza, the town that is home to the Great Pyramids. He always liked martial arts. At the age of 15, he took part in his first sumo practice after being invited by a friend. He couldn’t beat wrestlers who were smaller than him, but that’s what got him hooked on the sport.

“It’s interesting that you can’t beat your opponents with just power,” Osunaarashi said.

Midway through his university studies back home, Osunaarashi took a break and came to Japan last summer. Several sumo stables rejected Osunaarashi’s request to be accepted as an apprentice, but he continued e-mailing stables. Stablemaster Otake decided to take him in, impressed at how the Egyptian was willing to come to Japan at a time when many foreigners were refraining from visiting the country just months after the Great East Japan Earthquake and accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

“I felt his dedication,” Otake said.

Osunaarashi makes Egypt the 22nd foreign country to produce a professional sumo wrestler. The Egyptian boasts the size--a powerful 189-centimeter, 145-kilogram frame--but lacks the flexibility to do splits and a sumo wrestler's ceremonial leg raising and stomping on the ring. And because he follows the Muslim faith, he does not eat pork or drink alcohol. He also faces Ramadan in late July, the Islamic month of fasting during daylight hours, but Osunaarashi is confident he can juggle commitments to his religion and to his sport.

“I am confident that I can overcome my challenges," he said. "I want to become a wrestler who represents Arab and African nations.”

By SHUHEI NOMURA / Staff Writer
  • 1
submit to reddit
The first sumo wrestler from Egyptian, Osunaarashi, makes his debut at the spring tournament on March 13. (The Asahi Shimbun)

The first sumo wrestler from Egyptian, Osunaarashi, makes his debut at the spring tournament on March 13. (The Asahi Shimbun)

Toggle
  • The first sumo wrestler from Egyptian, Osunaarashi, makes his debut at the spring tournament on March 13. (The Asahi Shimbun)

More AJW