The rules of Swiss wrestling are simple and brutal: If you find yourself down with your back on the ground, you’ve lost. The eventual winner is crowned champion and given a bull, the customary prize in this rural sport. Refreshingly, this very traditional Swiss obsession also accepts the odd foreigner.
At first glance, Tiago Marques Vieira is indistinguishable from the Swiss grapplers who competing against him at wrestling tournaments in rural Switzerland. The 23-year-old giant weighs 140 kilograms and stands 1.9 metres tall. He is fluent in Swiss-German and respects the traditions surrounding the sport. After winning a bout, he brushes off the sawdust from his opponent’s shoulders and washes his face in a horse trough set aside for the purpose.
In the wrestling arena, everyone is equal. The only difference is that Tiago Marques Vieira does not possess a Swiss passport. He is one of the few foreigners that practice Swiss wrestling at a high level. The son of Portuguese immigrants, it’s been ten years since he took up the sport. Today, he has seven titles and a strong performance at three national championships to his name. Now, he has his sights set on becoming the “wrestling king”, the title awarded to the national champion.
(Images: Thomas Kern, swissinfo.ch; Text: Alexander Thoele, swissinfo.ch)