Jordanian, Iranian kickboxers skip matches against Israeli at world championship

Ameer Asad receives double walkover but laments boycott; Israeli federation slams ‘ugly’ and ‘unsportsmanlike’ act

Israeli kickboxer Ameer Asad at the world championship in Turkey, November 27, 2019. (Screenshot: Twitter)
Israeli kickboxer Ameer Asad at the world championship in Turkey, November 27, 2019. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Jordanian and Iranian athletes skipped Wednesday matches against their Israeli counterpart in the Kickboxing World Championship, in the latest example of Arab and Muslim countries’ boycott of the Jewish state in sports.

Wednesday’s incident was a rare case of a Jordanian athlete boycotting an Israeli opponent, a further indication of worsening bilateral ties between the countries, 25 years after they signed a peace agreement. Jordan’s King Abdullah II recently said relations were at an “all-time low.”

Ameer Asad, a 22-year-old kickboxer from the Arab Israeli town of Jatt, is currently competing at the World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO) championship in Turkey in the under-74 kilogram (163-pound) weight class.

The 2018 European champion was due to square off against an opponent from Jordan on Wednesday, but the athlete never showed up for the bout.

In his next match, the quarterfinal, Asad was supposed to meet Iran’s Morteza Godarzi, who similarly was a no-show.

“There shouldn’t be politics in sport,” Asad told Hebrew-language media. “We coming to compete as athletes.”

He said he was not pleased to have been awarded two walkovers in a row and would have preferred to have earned the wins by competing.

The Israel Kickboxing Federation issued a statement calling on athletes to be “respectful,” adding: “Boycotts are a phenomenon that is entirely unsportsmanlike and harms the spirit of sports and the athletes. It is regrettable that an athlete from a neighboring country, with which we have a peace agreement, chose to commit such an ugly act.”

Last month, the International Judo Federation (IJF) banned Iran from competition indefinitely over the country’s refusal to face Israeli competitors.

In this photo taken September 12, 2019, Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei poses for a portrait photo at an undisclosed southern city of Germany. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Iranian fighter Saeid Mollaei, defending his title at the Tokyo World Championships in August, had said he was ordered to throw his semifinal rather than risk facing Israeli competitor Sagi Muki in the subsequent round.

The IJF said the suspension would remain in place until the Iran Judo Federation “gives strong guarantees and proves that they will respect the IJF Statutes and accept that their athletes fight against Israeli athletes.”

Iran does not recognize Israel as a country and Iranian sports teams have for several decades had a policy of not competing against Israelis. Iranian passports remind holders in bold red that they are “not entitled to travel to occupied Palestine.”

Last month, Israeli kickboxer Yulia Sachkov won a gold medal at the world championships of K-1 style kickboxing in Bosnia.

I am a WORLD CHAMPION!!!!!!!

Posted by Yulia Sachkov on Saturday, October 26, 2019

Three other Israelis took home silver medals from that competition in Sarajevo.

Sachkov, a 21-year-old IDF soldier from Haifa, defeated her Czech opponent in the finals of the under-52 kilogram (114.5 pound) weight class of K-1 style kickboxing.

“This is a dream that came true,” she told Kan public radio. “Everything worked perfectly.”

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