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When the colossi with the Herculean force defy in the Basque Country

Ⓒ AFP – IROZ GAIZKA – | Des Basques take part in the tug-of-war at the “Festival de la Force Basque” in Saint-Palais on 20 August 2017, in the south-west of France

Chariot lifting, straw bales or wheat bag, cutting of trunks 30 cm in diameter, tug-of-war: in blue trousers and white shirt, 120 giants clash on the pediment of Saint-Palais ( Pyrénées-Atlantiques) for the 67th festival of “Basque force”.

A name that summarizes by itself the incredibly physical nature of the tests of this discipline, composed of different games resulting from agricultural work.

Jean-Louis Fourcade, president of the association “Les Mixains”, organizer of this festival, considered as one of the most prestigious This side of the Pyrenees and which always attracts the crowds since its creation in 1951.

“There was no mechanization at the time,” he said. “Farmers were making enormous efforts, for example, straw bales in the attic on the second floor of the Basque houses. Remained, “he continues.

“I started the Basque force to beat a friend of the village,” explains Mathieu Aphecetche, 28, a fellow from Saint-Martin d’Arberoue, one of eight villages vying for Sunday.

His motivation to break his back and muscles, “it is pride,” he summarizes: “pride between neighboring villages, because one sees oneself afterwards, in meals, etc.”

“Here it has become Mecca, the cradle of the Basque force. For them it is a reference to win here,” adds Fourcade.

Ⓒ AFP – IROZ GAIZKA – | Des Basques take part in the tug-of-war on 20 August 2017 in Saint-Palais in the south-west of France, 20 August 2017

Winner of the cart lift contest, Mathieu lifted this 356 kg machine on seven laps, a total length of more than 180 meters!

“Basque force” obliges, Mathieu Apheceche measures 1.93 m and weighs 105 kg. A weight however below the other competitors, whose average evolves between 120 to 130 kg … “It is not enough to be fellow, we must have the mind!”, Smiles Mathieu, still carried by the applause of the public Massed in the stands.

– “The harshest of all” –

Dominique Inchauspé, 64, former rope shooter, agrees with the words. “One of the biggest hits is the weight of the team,” he said. “This year, one of the shooters weighs 200 kg,” he said. veteran.

Ⓒ AFP – IROZ GAIZKA – | A Basque participates in the rising of the charette during the Festival of the Basque Force in Saint-Palais, in the southwest of France the 20 of August of 2017

The soka tira, the most popular of the Basque force games and the queen of the Saint-Palais festival, pits two teams of ten men. To win, it is necessary, by pulling, to bring the opposing team in its camp over a distance of 3 m at least.

The weight of a rope of 10 men exceeds cheerfully the ton …

Where does the Basque force recruit its athletes? “There are a lot of farmers. You have masons, carpenters, no accountants, because good, that’s it, do not stick your hands,” Dominique Inchauspé said. He said: “You have mechanics, I was a mechanic when I fired, but it is above all the agricultural world”.

The Basque force is practiced on both the French and Spanish sides, and this year the championship of the seven Basque provinces (three in France, four in Spain) will be held on 7 September in Sare, in the French Basque Country.

Ⓒ AFP – IROZ GAIZKA – | A participant in the Basque Force Festival in Saint-Palais in the south west of France on 20 August 2017

Spread around the world by the important Basque diaspora, these games of force are also very popular in North America, in the United States for example.

“And even in Saint Pierre and Miquelon, where a Basque colony dating back to the whaling period of the sixteenth century lives,” said Joxe Mari Esnaola, a native of Segura (Guipuzcoa, Spain), Beech wood carved in Saint-Palais.

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