By Sulayman Bah
It’s a battle that will sure get the numbers glued to their screens as Modou Lo takes on Balla Gaye II in a meeting of bitter rivals.
The furore between the two is so intense that it could be mistaken for hatred. The fight is billed for this Sunday but lead up to it has been action packed though little more civilized than their first meeting in which rival supporters waged onslaughts on each other, mounted barricades and even, in some reported extreme cases, cordoned off areas and burnt car tyres.
The hostilities increased in the immediate aftermath of the duel which had Balla Gaye II spanking Modou Lo in 19 seconds –arguably the fastest of defeats in the arena.
Drivers carrying scarfs or fans donning portraits of the wrestlers in a town where one of the star’s has a stronghold, often had sorry tales to tell afterwards. The death of a fan –some reports say two – after being subjected to severe beatings by a blood tasty mob spurred the then Abdoulaye Wade government to take action. Nipping this raging enmity in the bud, Balla and Modou were forced to pen their signatures on a truce agreeing never to fight again. In an impromptu meeting with the Senegalese president, the wrestlers and their representatives sat on either side of Wade in a round table conference, denounced the use of violence in totality in the sport.
And for the cameras, Modou and Balla hugged to cheers. Predictably, tabloids were full of the duo’s picture the following day with the L’Observateur dedicating a full-page to it splashing collage of images of the conference.
This move attained its set out objective – calm nerves, rid the multi-million sport of thuggery threatening to unseat the reign of peace in the game.
However, it is note highlighting how this fiery antagonism, fueling popularity of the fight, began between the pair. February 3rd was the date and the year, 2009, during a major face-to-face staged by wrestling promoter Gaston Mbengue. It turned out that the two were invited ahead of their scheduled fight February 8th 2009. Balla was to face Eumeu Sene and Modou Lo up against Balla Diouf of Club Fass. Standard bearings will have Modou Lo and Balla Gaye focusing on their respective adversaries. Instead, and against expectations, the duo wrestlers began trading words as the crowd watched on, flummoxed.
Narrating cause of the commotion, Guediwaye-based Balla claimed Modou Lo had unleashed torrents of uncomplimentary remarks on him in an unprovoked attack, saying Mbax Mbargane, a coordinator for promoter Gaston Mbengue at the time, had witnessed it all.
Balla would go on to bite the dust to Eumeu Sene and blamed it on Modou Lo claiming his comments destabilised him, a thing the latter strongly repudiates. Beyond this near altercation, they met again with Modou defying Balla. Build-up to their previous tussle witnessed a never-before seen scene as Gaye touched down in the middle of the arena onboard a hired helicopter –an intriguing entry that divided opinion with some labeling it flamboyance while others dismissed it as ostentatiousness. Undeterred, a controversial Balla released hordes of white birds in a cage as part of his pattern of mysticism. At the whistle of start, Gaye feigned a deft movement before provoking his opponent into an open boxing fight which Modou Lo responded with left and right uppercuts one of which landed on Balla’s lower lip. Then a grappling ensued with Gaye allowing his adversary little time to calculate before routing him in 19 seconds.
Lo points to this defeat as the worst of his career and will be seeking to avenge it hence his mantra for a 1-1.
A man with two wives will never beat me
As though the drama isn’t enough, Parcelles-based Modou Lo threw yet another jibe in an apparent stinging dig at Balla, married to two women.
‘A man with two wives will never beat me,’ he said early last year, a comment Balla laughed off.
Back to recent events, face-to-faces are organised sessions allowing opposing wrestlers spice up the event ahead of the D-day. And last weekend’s edition –the one of many – took an intriguing turn after the duo riled each other.
‘Your supporters are the ones hyping you up, but you and I know I’m not your match,’ Balla Gaye said to which Modou Lo replied with keen interest: ‘If we were placed in a corner, you will take to your heels.’
The fixture, dubbed fight of the decade, is the talk of the town with millions expected to watch it in Senegambia and beyond via pay-per-view, a revenue-generating strategy charging viewers, raking millions for the parties involved.
Debate over who sports a protruding stomach simmered between the stars to which Guediawaye-based Gaye reacted by peeling off his top suit and urged his rival to followed suit.
A calmed Modou Lo wasn’t falling for it and merely shrugged off his shoulder.