I watched a Lithuanian couple win the World Wife-Carrying Championship for a second time in a row in the Finnish town of Sonkajarvi on Saturday. It was thrilling and captivating as men (husbands) slug their respective wives on the shoulder while overcoming obstacles on their way. To have such a competition in Africa would be amazing and can ultimately revive family bonds. The problem is that African men carry so much on their shoulders due to the cultural expectations in the face of stiffening economic uncertainty.
Each year, the championship draws thousands of visitors to the town of only about 4,000 inhabitants in central Finland. From a functionalist viewpoint and given the role of sports as a unifying factor, wife-carrying competition can rejuvenate marriage unions, while also ensuring healthy lifestyle. Of course you don't want to end a 300m journey just after 100 meters.
Sports followership and support has been dwindling on the continent. Times are changing, where fans troop to the stadium to watch local football matches on weekends even as officials always had a handful to deal with. Foreign leagues has done a great deal of damage to what we call our own and our kids can't even name a player who won the CAF Champions league, yet knows the first eleven of a European football club.
In times past, leisure and play has been a part of an average African, with festivities in their colorful exorberance. Men or women, young or old, noble or peasants, there's always a time to roll. At some point, we lost it unfortunately and it will not be out of order to start from a sport that promotes cohesion in the family.
Wife-carrying may be labeled a misogynistic sport by feminist groups, who are quick to rob our minds of the many positives. By the way, its the couple's play not theirs. Rather than see couples ripped apart by divorce, constantly clamping on violence and bitterness, we can have a partnership defined by love.
In Africa, the sports can easily resonate to showcase the strength of a man and his willingness to carry her in the journey of life. It is figurative and also follows the natural law that the hormonal advantage of the male folk is to protect and not molest women through machismo. Such a competition should infuse into the minds of many African men that their wives aren't just a baggage for procreation and nannies without pay. We are friends, playful friends for that matter.
Wife-carrying as a sport drew inspiration from the 19th century legend of Ronkainen the Robber, who compelled would-be members of his gang to prove their mettle by carrying sacks of grain or live pigs over a similar course.
The competition is also said to look back to an even earlier practice of wife-stealing - leading many present-day contestants to compete with someone else’s wife. If we can't start from wife-carrying, let's start with something light and we can move on from there. It's always within us.
Header Image Credit: Reuters