A 14-year old Mauritanian chess player withdrew from the Junior World Cup chess tournament last week rather than compete against an Israeli opponent, according to various Middle East media reports.
StopAntisemitism.org described Abdel Rahim al-Talib Muhammad’s refusal to participate in the match as “heartbreaking to see hatred taught at such a young age.”
Muhammad was quoted by the Middle East Monitor stating: “I decided to retire because I refuse to play with a representative of a fictional country that in reality does not exist.”
Muhammad is ranked 47th out of 215 in world standings.
The Mauritanian National League commended the teenager for refusing to play his Israel opponent.
"We salute our dear son Abdel Rahman Al-Talib Mohammed, this exceptional genius which honoured our country and our people by declaring a boycott of the grim Zionist face," said league president Ghulam Al-Hajj, Middle East Monitor reported.
Iran's Press TV’s Twitter account also praised the 14-year old for his decision.
The issue of chess players facing intense pressure not to compete against Israeli opponents has been widespread across the Muslim world.
In December 2019, Iran’s top rated chess champion decided not to play for his country in an apparent reaction to Tehran’s informal ban on competing against Israeli players.
Sixteen-year-old Alireza Firouzja, the world’s second-highest rated junior player, was the second high profile Iranian sports figure in 2019 to try to renounce his citizenship over pressures on Iranian athletes to forego matches with Israeli competitors.
At the time, he was living in France and had mentioned wanting to compete under the French or US flag.
In September 2020, an Iranian chess referee who was forced to flee Iran after being photographed not wearing a hijab properly spoke about her Jewish ancestry for the first time while applying for asylum in the United Kingdom.
In April of 2021, a special international chess event, Chess4Solidarity, took place online to commemorate the Holocaust in which participants from Israel and many Arabs countries that do not have relations with the Jewish state competed against each other.