Algerian judoka quits Olympics to avoid facing Israeli

Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine forfeits his place in the Tokyo Olympics after being told he would have to face Israeli judoka Tohar Butbul.

Elad Benari ,

Judo
Judo
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Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine has forfeited his place in the Tokyo Olympics after being told he would have to face Israeli judoka Tohar Butbul, Israeli media reported on Thursday.

The two would have faced each other in the second round if both were to advance.

Nourine was quoted in Algerian media as saying, "We are not going to raise the Israeli flag and we will not get our hands dirty with competition against an Israeli."

A senior member of the Algerian delegation was quoted as having explained the reason for Nourine’s decision by saying, "We were unlucky with the lottery. The reason for stepping down is because Nourine may face an Israeli."

The incident should come as no surprise, according to the reports, as two years ago, Nourine quit a competition in Tokyo in order to avoid facing Butbul.

The Israeli went on to finish in seventh place in the World Championships.

Algeria, like many Muslim states, does not have relations with Israel. In April of 2018, an Algerian court sentenced eight people to 10 years in prison over espionage for Israel.

In December, the head of Algeria's largest Islamist party labeled Morocco's Prime Minister Saad Eddine El-Othmani a "traitor" over his country’s decision to normalize ties with Israel.

Athletes from countries that do not have ties with Israel regularly withdraw from sporting competitions in order to avoid facing Israelis.

The most famous incident in recent years was that of Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei, who was forced to throw a match against Israelis, even after the International Judo Federation (IJF) and Iran reached an agreement which stipulates that Iran will no longer boycott competitions against Israelis.

Mollaei later travelled to Germany to begin the process of applying for asylum. He was recognized as a refugee in Germany in November of 2019 and recently won a silver medal at the Tel Aviv Grand Slam, where he represented Mongolia.



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