An Iranian jiu-jitsu competitor recently pulled out of a tournament in the United Arab Emirates after an opponent switch put him against an athlete from Israel.
28-year-old Hamid Amraei was originally set to face a Brazilian competitor in the 77-kilogram division as part of the AJP Tour Fujairah International Pro Jiu-Jitsu Championship in Abu Dhabi. A change in the draw resulted in Amraei being matched up with an Israeli opponent, and the BJJ brown belt subsequently pulled out of the event.
While Amraei has not publicly commented on the reasoning for his withdrawal, this would not be the first instance of an athlete refusing to compete against an Israeli opponent in the last few years.
Due to the current political situation between Israel and Palestine, a number of athletes from Muslim countries have made a point of not competing at major international events if matched with Israeli competitors.
Muslim Athletes Back Palestine
Possibly the highest-profile example of these athletic protests came at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where two judokas chose to forgo competing rather than face Israeli competition.
Fethi Nourine of Algeria was not initially scheduled to face an Israeli opponent at the Olympics, but he withdrew due to the likelihood of encountering an Israeli athlete if he advanced in the tournament. Following the Algerian’s withdrawal, Mohamed Adbalrasool of Sudan cited similar concerns and also elected to pull out of the competition.
Nourine had previously withdrawn from the 2019 Judo World Championships in Tokyo for the same reasons. After announcing his decision to pull out of the Olympics a day before the games were set to begin, the Algerian cited his support for Palestine as his motivation for not competing.
“We worked a lot to reach the Olympics… but the Palestinian cause is bigger than all of this,” Nourine told an Algerian television station after his announcement.
It hasn’t been confirmed that Amraei’s withdrawal from the AJP Tour jiu-jitsu event is due to the nationality of his new opponent, although both he and staff from the Iranian national team reportedly objected to the opponent switch after it was announced.
You can read up on our most recent jiu-jitsu story, featuring a trainer stopping an alleged attacker at a 7-Eleven here.