Saudi badminton players refuse to play Israeli

Two Saudi badminton players forfeit match instead of playing against an Israeli opponent.

Ben Ariel ,

Badminton (illustration)
Badminton (illustration)

Two Saudi badminton players forfeited a match at an international tournament in Ukraine on Friday instead of playing against an Israeli opponent, i24news reports.

Israeli Max Grinblat is competing at the junior international series in Dnipropetrovsk in Ukraine.

In a Facebook post, he said that when he saw that he and his Ukrainian partner would meet two Saudis in the semi-final, he expected them to announce their withdrawal from the match.

"All day I wondered if [the Saudis] would turn up or not and how the situation would pan out," Grinblat wrote.

The Saudis did not choose to cancel the match in advance, however, and Grinblat continued to the arena.

After the coin toss the two Saudi players declined to shake hands with the Israeli or Ukrainian.

"As my partner chose a side of the court, the Saudis took their bags and left the arena. I smiled because I understood what's going on, but my partner and the referee didn't get what was happening," wrote Grinblat.

He added that the Saudi coach filmed the entire counter, suggesting it was staged for publicity purposes.

The Saudis' refusal to play means Grinblat, who is the only Israeli competing, will proceed directly to the semifinals.

Athletes from Muslim countries that do not recognize Israel or have any relations with it often refuse to play against Israelis. In some cases, those countries ban Israelis from entering and participate in sporting events. When Israelis are permitted entry, they are not allowed to wear any Israeli symbols and the national anthem is not played.

Last October, organizers of the Grand Slam tournament in Abu Dhabi refused to play Israel’s national anthem when Tal Flicker won a gold medal. Flicker was wearing an International Judo Federation uniform and received his medal under an IJF flag while the anthem of the federation was played.

The restrictions on the Israelis continued despite the fact that the IJF had called on the United Arab Emirates to treat Israeli athletes equally during the Grand Slam tournament.

In April, four young Israeli athletes were banned from competing in the taekwondo world junior championship event in Tunisia.

A month later, a bid by Tunisia to host the 2022 Youth Olympics was blocked because the country had banned the Israeli athletes.

The International Judo Federation recently suspended planned competitions in Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates after the hosts failed to confirm that Israeli athletes would receive equal treatment.