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Algerian judoka receives a hero's welcome after refusing to play Israel competitor

Fethi Nourine [Twitter/@staddoha]
Fethi Nourine, 30 July 2021 [Twitter/@staddoha]

Algerian judoka Fathi Nourine, who arrived in Algeria on Wednesday night, expressed his pride after his decision to withdraw from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to avoid facing an Israeli competitor.

Nourine told reporters at Algiers airport: "My coach and I took the decision together and I am proud of it. This decision honours me first, honours my family, and honours the Algerian people and the Algerian state, because President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared to the world that we do not consent to normalisation, and we support the Palestinian cause."

"I am glad I could vex the Zionist entity [Israel], and I received encouraging phone calls from the Arab and Islamic world," he added.

Nourine was due to face Sudanese player Mohamed Abdalrasool, on 24 July, in his first match in the round of 64, and would have been paired with Israeli Tohar Butbul in the round of 32 in the men's 73kg weight category.

However, four days before the match Nourine announced that he would be withdrawing from the event because "the Palestinian cause is more important than these matters, and this is an irreversible decision."

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He explained upon his return to Algeria: "I was shocked when I saw that the draw paired me with the wrestler of the Zionist entity, which I did not see coming, but I did not hesitate to take the decision to withdraw."

The Executive Committee of the International Judo Federation (IJF) announced the temporary suspension of Nourine and his coach, Ammar Benkhlef.

The IJF said Norine's position is "completely inconsistent with the philosophy of the federation (…)" which has "a strict policy of non-discrimination, and the promotion of solidarity as a fundamental principle, reinforced by judo values."

The IJF added that "judo is based on a strong moral code that incorporates respect and friendship, in order to promote solidarity. We will not tolerate any discrimination, because it contradicts the basic values and principles of our sport."

Nourine took a similar step during the 2019 World Judo Championships in Tokyo.

Sudan's Mohamed Abdalrasool also pulled out of this year's Olympics to avoid facing an Israeli player.

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