Somali Games of Strength and Agility

G. Marin

[Page 500]

SPORTS (Chiefly found in groups of horse or camel rearers.)

Wrestling (legdan): The object of the game is to make the opponent touch the ground with any part of his body besides his feet; this must be accomplished four times in order to win.

(la·mo·tan): Two children (aged 4 upwards) are given a little stick each, and are told to hit each other anywhere, except on the head. The fight goes on until one runs away.

(dabartan): This is more in the nature of a little fight then of a game. When indulged in – which is seldom - a piece of ground is chosen, at some distance from the animals. Youths up to the age of 22 take part in it, and form two teams which always represent two different groups. The opponents hit each other with dabar (ropes used to tether the camels), until one team is driven away to its settlement.

(daςartan): Throwing aloe-roots or dry camel dung at each other, and endeavoring to ward off these projectiles with little shields which the children make themselves with palm leaves.

(tartan) Foot racing

(riddan) Spear-throwing for distance

(nifa·btan·dugtan) Throwing at a mark

(ħe·go) A kind of Hockey: The players are divided into two teams; each team has its goal, which usually consists of a bush. In the centre, i.e. - at an equal distance from each goal, they place a bone or a piece of wood roughly hewn in the shape of a ball. The players hit this object with sticks, and endeavor to drive it into the opponents' goal.

lu·f (Issa·q) [Page 501]A game of Quoits: Two teams are formed. Each player in turn stands on a line drawn on the ground and endeavors to throw a stone in a hole dug at some little distance (should a boy hit the stone of one of his opponents both start again.) The one who gets nearest to the pit wins the game for his team. All then go to the hole and all those who belong to the winning side jump on the backs of the others who become their “donkeys”, and must imitate the cry of that animal. Each donkey has to pick up both his own stone and that of his rider; the latter then throws his stone wherever he likes; the donkey can try to hit it with his own or he can challenge his rider to do so himself. This is repeated twice again, and each time the donkey has the same option. As soon as the donkey succeeds – or rider fails – he is relieved of his burden. But if neither has happened after the third throw, the donkey is compelled to carry his rider to the pit. Then back where he was, and back to the pit once more: this threefold journey is called lu·f.

ςu·d (Issa·q) also KándZal This game is played like Tipcat with a stick which serves as a bat, and a shorter one, the length of a hand, and beveled at one end, which serves as a missile. The boy who begins has to hit the short piece six times with the bat before letting it fall on the ground. If he fails to do so, the other boy endeavors to hit it similarly, but only five times; if he also is unsuccessful, a complete replay is necessary. This preliminary is called dagadageisi.

As soon as one of the players has succeeded, he starts the game proper. A small groove is scratched in the ground and the missile is laid in it, slanting in a way that the beveled end stands out, the bevel being turned downwards. This end the boy strikes with the bat, and as the missile bounces up in the air, he hits it again so as to send it as far away as be can. His opponents pick it up, and, without leaving the place where it fell, he hurls it at the bat which in the meantime has been laid across the grove. (This throw is called so·dagón.) If he hits the bat, the first player is out, and the second takes his turn; but if he misses, the first player replaces the missile in the groove, makes it bounce up as before, and hits it again with all his might. The distance between the place where it falls and the groove is measured by means of the bat. This is done three times in succession, the distance attained in each case being added up. The object is to reach the sum of 101 in bat lengths. If this is not accomplished in three throws, the player must repeat the so·dagón (and thus give his opponent an opportunity to put him out) before he can go on and try to complete his score of 101.

Last update January 7, 2010