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judo in the middle east

September 11, 2005 by Saar Drimer

I’m not a big sports fan. In other words, I’d rather play a sport than watch it; and I don’t do that much either. One of the great things about sports, however, is that it is an equalizer. You can watch the FIFA World Cup (major event in my childhood; Israel might just squeeze in to the 2006 event, btw) or the olympic games and see nations coming together to compete in a civilized manner, mostly showing comradery never witnessed at any other time at such scale. Every olympic games generates a few such stories that are truly moving. And yes, I tend to get emotional watching the games take place for that reason alone; it makes me feel good and hopeful that people are still able to be civilized to one another.

judoWhen I hear of stories that demonstrate otherwise in such a setting, I get aggravated; or to be more precise, disappointed. Very. The recent one is about an Iranian judoka intentionally losing a match in order not to face an Israeli opponent. My reaction is “why?” Can’t they let go and see that these events are the last haven for apolitic conduct? Why can’t they leave politics at home?

Anyway, it’s not the judoka’s fault; the Israeli news papers report that he cried when the Israeli won and placed against him if he, in turn won his next match. They also report that the Iranian coach reluctantly muttered that these were “orders from above.”


  1. Freeman says:

    It is totally the judoka’s fault, period. I am sick and tired of these people in the Middle East who whine and whine and whine about their government policies and do not risk to take the smallest step toward freedom.
    Some facts:
    1:No one will be prosecuted in Iran because of playing/not playing a match against an Israeli (or even a Martian in that case). At most he would be financially punished (not be awarded the bonuses) or get restrictions on the future games ( I am even doubtful about that).
    2: The players who do not play a game against an Israeli would be awarded lots of money (even more than what they would get for becoming the champion of a tournament) as stated in the article that you have cited

    Therefore the athlete thinks “Hey, I go for the free money that I get from the government without any trouble, rather than be a man and taking the risk of lossing a match to a Jew!”. And then they become A** kissing darlings of the government, and the rest of the gang.

    My whole point is that this guy is a no good chicken, and I have no sympathy for him (I hope he be banned from playing any game including monopoly for the rest of his life).
    And also he has no right of crying. No reform is possible without individual sacrifices. If someone does not risk taking the slightest amount of discomfort, then he/she has no right to cry for his/her lost goals or ideals (because he/she does not have the merit of having any ideal).

  2. The Olympics incident in Judo was widely reported. A coworker mentioned that the Israeli national soccer team has been playing in a variety of Arab countries as well as Iran. (With a lone Israeli Arab taking much of the vitriol.) Is this so? It is hard to imagine the Israeli team touring Arab nations.

  3. Freeman says:

    Well, the last soccer game of Iran and Isreal as reported by Fifa goes back to 1970s during the Shah’s regime. I guess some Arab countries like Jordan are more moderate about Israeli teams.

  4. Saar Drimer says:

    Interesting perspective. As for no.1, I’m not sure how you can say that, people have been incarcerated/disappearing for less. You’ve convinced me with no. 2! Maybe these were tears of joy running down his cheeks. He just got the coveted win-win situation: easy money and the spoils of a major boot-licking all by not acting.

    BTW, the notion that people who are found losing intentionally, should be fined/handled the same as athletes cheating to win makes sense to me. Albeit, it will be hard to prove.

    As Freeman indicates, there were no games after Iran’s revolution. Prior to that, ironically, Israel and Iran had pretty good relations. It’s all very unfortunate that things turned out this way.
    As I said, I don’t follow sports, but games against Egypt, Turkey or Jordan are feasible… but not against Syria, Lebanon, Libya or the likes.

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