–Promoter targets big transfer fees from European scouts!
Interview by TUNDE KOIKI on the COMPLETE SPORTS STUDIOS radio programme, SPORTS PLANET.
Sports Planet: Could you kindly introduce yourself?
Balogun: I’m Alhaji Kayode Balogun, the National Secretary of the Ram Sports Promoters Association of Nigeria.
SP: Can you tell us how ram fighting evolved into a sport in Nigeria?
Balogun: Ram fighting has been a form of sport in Nigeria for a very long time. It is a sport that normally takes place during the Muslim festival. On the morning of the festival, we take rams to the field with other neighbours and friends to fight each other. Ram fighting is a good traditional sport which we’ve been able to modify to national and international standard. And since we started that, we’ve been progressing.
SP: Do you just pick any animal for your sport or are there any specific traits that mark a ram as a potential athlete?
Balogun: We don’t use just any ram. It’s just like any other sports; you have to discover the potential of the ram before you can say this is going to be a very good gladiator. When you discover the ram then you get a trainer who trains the ram on the tactics involved in the sport.
SP: Are you telling us that you actually train these animals to fight?
Balogun: Of course yes, my brother. The trainer takes the ram out early in the morning for fitness. He also takes care of the food the ram feeds on because you must have four different feedings for the ram in a day.
SP: Interesting. So, how would you like to respond to those members of society who say ram fighting is nothing but animal cruelty and exploitation?
Balogun: You see, the thing is there has never been any sport that has not been condemned. Football was first condemned before it was later accepted likewise boxing, wrestling, karate among others. But the fact is that God created all things in this world for a purpose and, as far as you don’t go to the length of punishing or forcing a ram to fight, there is no problem with it. For example, you can’t force someone to be a boxer rather he or she chooses boxing as his or her hobby likewise these animals. The ram we use are great gladiators, they like fighting and they are well taken care of. We have officials that make sure they don’t force any ram to fight. Immediately they put them beside each other they know what to do because they’ve been trained.
SP: How does the contest play out; do you allow combatants to fight to the death or do you score them points or what?
Balogun: In a big competition, the first round consists of only 20 hits. If they complete 20 hits, that’s a draw then they go for a second round. In the second round, the hits increase to 30 and extend to 50 at the quarter-final stage. And when it gets to the semi-final and final stages, a winner has to emerge before the hits reach 100. That’s how we do it and that’s why we have men on ground; they count points, the speed and the fitness of the ram to discover who the winner is.
SP: What plans does your association have to promote ram fighting as a legitimate sport in Nigeria and possibly as a tourist attraction for the country like bull fighting in other parts of the world?
Balogun: Thank you very much. Our association is a registered body in Nigeria. Moreover, we are under traditional sports of Nigeria and, hopefully at the next National Sports Festival, we are going to showcase ram fighting there. We’ve also had fights with Benin Republic and Cote d’Ivoire and we are still looking beyond these countries.
SP: Really! So, ram fighting is not restricted to Nigeria alone?
Balogun: Ram fighting is not restricted to Nigeria alone. Many African countries like Cote d’Ivoire, Algeria, Tunisia and Benin Republic also do it. They also have it in Indonesia, Turkey, Japan and China.
SP: What are your visions for this sport?
Balogun: I have a dream whereby I will be transferring rams from Nigeria to countries like Spain, France and England where a ram will cost as much as £200,000 like the way they trade in football players all over the world. And my belief is that, with time, people will be coming to Nigeria from all over the world to buy professional rams so that the country will be proud that this is one of the things we do.
SP: So, how much does a good fighting ram cost in Nigeria?
Balogun: Well, the current record was set here in Lagos State. The ram in question had a massive reputation as a formidable fighter. It was sold for N1.45m (One Million, Four Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira) only. But the cheapest you can get, that is a transfer from one trainer to another is N150,000. Otherwise, you can take a gamble and go to the livestock market, there you can get a rookie or amateur for as low as N20,000.
SP: There are reports that people place huge sums as bets on these ram fights, is this true?
Balogun: My brother, it is a serious matter. In fact, we have seen people place bets with hundreds of thousands of naira, even millions. Some place bets with cars, SUVs, motorcycles, tricycles, commercial buses, etc. When we have such situation, we apply to the area command of the Nigerian Police to provide security and maintain law and order. And to the glory of God, we have never had any incidents.
SP: Thank you for sharing your time with us, sir.
Balogun: It’s my pleasure.
“I hope to realize big transfer fees on my rams, the way football clubs do on professional footballers. The rams we use are gladiators. They like fighting and we train them to fight.”
“Ram fighting is big business”–Kayode Balogun, ram fighting promoter.
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