Egypt’s Abdelrahman Ahmed Shaalan is the first professional sumo wrestler coming from both the Arab world and the African continent to seek glory in Japan. His ambition and passion are challenged by the difficulties of the new world he wants to conquer.
Dubbed “Osunaarashi”, or the “Great Sandstorm”, the 20-year-old fighter is a Muslim, which poses additional difficulties to his task. His religion does not allow for eating pork meat or drinking alcohol, leaving off his menu the deep-fried cutlets and large quantities of beer and rice wine sake which otherwise make for the regular sumo wrestler diet.
Shaalan also prays five times a day and does not eat or drink during daylight hours during the holy month of Ramadan, making the intense daily training schedule of sumo wrestlers even more difficult.
“I want to become a wrestler who represents Arab and African nations…. My dream is to become a yokozuna (grand champion),” he said. Shaalan, who stands at 189 centimetres and weighs 145 kilograms, admits that he is a little worried with his new challenges. “But no problem,” he says.
“I am confident that I can overcome my challenges,” he adds.
Shaalan’s won an open-class bronze medal at the 2008 world junior sumo championships and an over-100 kilogram bronze at the 2010 edition. In Japan, he won his first two professional-level matches at a tournament in Osaka.