………No. 6 of 10 Things to do in Tenerife which don’t cost a fortune.
So, you’re missing the excitement of supporting your local sports team? Want to experience that kind of thrill whilst you are in Tenerife, but not spend so much you can’t afford your next flight? Despite quite some time spent searching, I couldn’t find the cost of going to watch the fickle fortunes of CD Tenerife, other than by buying a season ticket. There is loads of information in English about the local soccer club out there, if you must, but I just wanted to make a comparison because the sport I’m thinking about costs four or five euros to get in, and I am totally sure that watching soccer hasn’t been that cheap since Stanley Matthews was a lad. Nor am I talking about going to watch soccer, or any other sport, in a bar.
What I’m thinking of will leave you hoarse by the end of the night. Not only that, but you will have had an experience, which, so far as I can make out, few non-Canarians have had, so you will have traveller’s tales like no-one else’s to tell, and you will have had a genuine non-tourist experience.
Think wrestling. Think wrestling before all the glitz and glamor of WWF. Think wrestling when it was a contest between two guys, and not performance art, and you have Canarian Wrestling or Lucha Canaria.
When the Conquistadors arrived on the islands in the 15th and early 16th centuries they already found the aborigines practising a form of fighting, which has evolved into the current sport. The aborigines of Tenerife were known as Guanches, and are thought to have migrated to the island from North West Africa’s Berber tribes, since wrestling is very popular in some West African countries today, it would be easy to figure that they brought their tradition with them.
It wasn’t until mid 19th century that it became a sport in the modern sense, with set rules, though. It was practiced mainly for festivals and holidays (much as is Cumberland wrestling in the North of England, I think), until local federations were formed and competitions organized in the 1940s. The Federación Española de Lucha wasn’t formed until 1984, formalizing competitions.
I’d seen it countless times on local tv channels, and it hadn’t inspired any interest in me at all. In fact, it looked a bit boring, so when a pupil informed me he was going to take part in his first match, I thought going would be purely as support for him, when I took some of his friends to watch, and I was totally unprepared for the fun evening I had.
First impression was good, very friendly man on the door…..I was just a bit apprehensive that “furriners” might not be welcome, but it was just the opposite, and why I even thought that I don’t know, because I have never had that experience here. Totally the opposite, in fact, I’ve always found Canarians more than willing to share their culture, and delighted that you take an interest.
What we found on entering the arena was very spit and sawdust, the round ring, filled with sand, concrete bleachers, a kind of hole-in-the-wall bar selling beers, crisps and bocadillos, and people milling around everywhere. Friday night, and the girls in their Sunday best obviously out to catch the eyes of the guys, well, where better to find a cross-section of hunky boys than at a wrestling match? It felt like a throwback to the 40s or 50s somehow.
The teams entered the ring with much fanfare, and were introduced one-by-one to the crowd. That was when it dawned on me that I needed to be in good voice, there was going to be a vocally challenging evening ahead, and when the bouts started we found that the atmosphere really heated up. We didn’t have sponge fingers, or clapper thingys or noise makers, but there was no want of hooting and encouragement for both teams. I can’t say that the paraphernalia would have made it any more boisterous. By the end of the night my hands were tingling and my throat was sore – and my bum was numb – I made a note to bring something to sit on next time!
As with watching any sport, it’s much more fun if you are partisan, and to bond with locals it’s probably best to shout for the home team I guess, as it happens we were on home turf that first time, and afterwards I always found it much friendlier than away matches, or maybe that was my imagination! That first night the lovely man on my left, who was also a local supporter, explained some of the rules to me. It looks quite simple – throw your opponent to the ground before he throws you and you win, but, of course, there is more to it. Each competitor got a second and third bite of the cherry, so if he lost the first round, he wasn’t eliminated until he had lost three, then it became a survival of the fittest as the teams dwindled down to the last one or two members. The excitement escalates.
At various points, when allowed by their team captains, members of the teams move through the audience, and you can tip them as thanks for the enjoyment you’ve had, and in recognition of their skills, so take some change with you. No way do you ever feel that it’s compulsory to do it, though, so don’t worry.
The next year we went to cheer “our” team on in the local final, and if I’d thought it noisy before……I hadn’t heard anything at all! The competitors begin by grabbing the hem of the shorts of their opponent, the other hand has to be shown to be obviously free, and they bend forward shoulder to shoulder. From the moment that the first guys touched shoulders to the celebrations when our team won (Yay!) the whole place erupted into a cacophony of shouts, whistles, yells and screams the scale of which I had never heard before, a bit like being locked in a bathroom with a heavy metal band. There was a time when I got a bit apprehensive briefly, when I noticed various policemen entering through the huge doors of the main entrance, but up until we left it seemed as if they were just there to watch and enjoy. Whether there were problems later I don’t know, but as always everyone seemed to be exceptionally good natured, even though the away team won the big prize.
Now, of course, you aren’t going to find details of the matches in your hotel. The best web information I found is this one http://www.rincondelucha.com/ which does have a calendar of events, but be warned, as with many things on the islands, a calendar is a very flexible thing, but if you can find out where and when a match is happening and you don’t mind the spit and sawdust, do give it a try. If you are not exactly a spring chicken, I can guarantee that it will make you feel young again, but you need to forget both decorum and cholesterol for the evening, mind!
This post was part of a series, here are the others: