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Fingerhakeln frenzy: Bavarian men grapple for victory in Germany’s finger wrestling championship

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May 13, 2024

Despite the threat of dislocated fingers and strained muscles, over 150 Bavarian men came together Sunday to compete in Germany’s unique national championship of “Fingerhakeln,” or finger wrestling.

The “finger wrestlers” met in a big beer tent in the small southern village of Bernbeuren. Around 1,000 visitors cheered on the all-male contestants as they gulped down their national beer and world-famous German sausages while Bavarian live music filled the air.

Finger wrestling, a well-known competitive sport in Germany’s Alpine region and neighboring Austria, originated as a way to settle disputes.

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In each round, two competitors sit on opposite sides of a solid table and each hooks one finger — usually the middle finger — through opposite sides of a small leather loop. As soon as a referee signals the start, a contestant tries to pull the other across the table swiftly. The whole thing usually lasts a few seconds, and digits put out of their joints are common. The winner moves to the next round.

“This tradition has been popular for a very long time in beer houses and pubs across the region,” said Marie-Therese Eierstock, the head of the Fingerhakler Gau Auerberg association, founded in 1961 and organized this year’s championship.

Customarily, only men are allowed to participate in finger-wrestling competitions.

At Sunday’s tournament, the youngest competitor was 15 years old and the oldest 70, Eierstock said.

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