The agha – or governor – of the historic Kırkpınar olive oil wrestling tournament has called on one of its former champions to leave a Turkish reality television show after derogatory remarks were made toward him.
Occasional actor and professional translator Uğurtan Dora reportedly insulted former Kırkpınar champion Ismail Balaban during the filming of the popular Survivor Turkey television show.
Though Balaban has applied to the show with his own will, we do not accept such remarks for Turkey’s başpehlivan. Kırkpınar oil wrestling is our ancestral sport. We openly say that we are on Balaban’s side.
“You are a fool. You can only dance like a drag queen,” footage from the program showed Dora saying to Balaban.
In response, Seyfettin Selim, the main sponsor and organizer of the tournament, called on Balaban to leave the program.See Also: With Wrestling Match Canceled, Kırkpınar Sponsor Invests in Local Education
“Don’t demean yourself in that show. You are Turkey’s başpehlivan [head oil wrestler],” Selim reportedly said. “Leave the show and come back. Do not buckle under disrespectful remarks.”
“I will give you the exact money you earn from that show,” he added, acknowledging the financial benefits of competing in Survivor Turkey, which pits “normal” people against Turkish celebrities.
This season, the winning contestant will receive $500,000 (€423,000). By comparison, the winning wrestler at the Kırkpınar tournament receives about $9,000 (€7,600).
The Turkish Wrestling Federation also weighed in on the issue, criticizing Dora for his remarks but stopping short of asking Balaban to leave the competition currently being filmed in the Dominican Republic.
“Uğurtan Dora used ugly remarks about İsmail Balaban. Though Balaban has applied to the show with his own will, we do not accept such remarks for Turkey’s başpehlivan,” the federation said in a statement. “Kırkpınar oil wrestling is our ancestral sport. We openly say that we are on Balaban’s side.”
Balaban defeated Orhan Okulu, a two-time champion himself, in 2017 at the 656th edition of the competition.
Kırkpınar is widely considered the world’s oldest sport and was recognized more than 10 years ago as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage event. An estimated two tons of olive oil are used to cover the wrestlers each year.
According to legend, the first edition took place in 1357 when a group of Ottoman soldiers stopped near Erdine and starting wrestling to pass the time. After the rest of the soldiers stopped, the final two continued wrestling into the night and both were found dead in the morning.
There are preliminary plans to go ahead with the competition in July, but officials acknowledged that this would largely depend on the course of the pandemic.