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Türkiye's Annual Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival​​​​​​ Ends

Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival​​​​​​

Yusuf Can Zeybek has etched his name in history by winning the golden belt at the 662nd Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival. The highly anticipated event took place on Sunday, with Zeybek defeating his opponent, Ismail Balaban, in the thrilling final.

Zeybek, a 29-year-old wrestler hailing from Türkiye’s southern Antalya province, secured a substantial prize of 1 million Turkish liras (approximately $40,000) for his triumph. Meanwhile, Ismail Balaban, also representing Antalya, took home 250,000 liras (around $9,500) as the runner-up.

Organizers of the festival awarded a total of 3 million liras (approximately $115,000) in prize money to wrestlers across various categories, including travel and tour expenses.



Zeybek’s path to victory was an impressive one, marked by his triumph over formidable opponents. He emerged victorious after defeating Riza Yildirim, Mustafa Tas, Fatih Atli, and Mehmet Yesil, paving the way for his spot in the final.

Ismail Balaban, Zeybek’s rival in the final, also showcased exceptional skills throughout the tournament. Balaban’s journey included victories over Sahali Kurt, Mecit Yildirim, Cengizhan Simsek, Ozkan Yildirim, and Huseyin Gumusalan.



The excitement surrounding Zeybek’s victory extended beyond the event itself, with various figures expressing their congratulations. Youth and Sports Minister Osman Askin Bak took to Twitter to convey his warm wishes and commend Zeybek on obtaining the prestigious title of baspehlivan, which translates to “chief wrestler.”

The Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival has a rich history dating back to the 14th century, when it originated in the region of Rumeli in the Balkans, then under the control of the emerging Ottoman Empire. Today, it stands as one of the oldest and most revered wrestling festivals worldwide.

One of the defining aspects of Kirkpinar is the tradition of oil wrestling. Competitors are lavishly covered in olive oil, enhancing the challenge as they battle on the grass. Their attire consists of leather pants secured with a rope at the waist and cuffs, adding to the spectacle.

The festival’s historical significance and promotion of cultural heritage led to its inclusion on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010, on behalf of Türkiye. This prestigious recognition pays tribute to the importance of preserving and celebrating traditions that have endured for centuries.

The 662nd Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival not only showcased the immense skill and dedication of the competitors, but it also served as a testament to the rich cultural tapestry of Türkiye. The event brought together participants from various regions, fostering a sense of unity and shared enthusiasm for this ancient tradition.

As Yusuf Can Zeybek basks in the glory of his well-deserved victory, the legacy of the Kirkpinar Oil Wrestling Festival continues to thrive. The festival’s contribution to the preservation of cultural heritage and the display of exceptional athletic prowess underscores the significance of this historic event, ensuring its enduring presence for generations to come. (AA)


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