Kuwaiti runners’ participation in world championship alongside Israelis wades into controversy

March 30, 2010

Kuwaiti media have blasted the participation of three Kuwaiti athletes alongside Israelis in an international track meet.

“The participation of the Kuwaiti runners is a blatant violation of the rules that ban Kuwaitis from competing or taking part in individual events where Israelis are also present,” Al Shahed paper said. “Kuwait has invariably pulled out of competitions in which Israelis are taking part.”
None of the three Kuwaiti runners managed a top 110 position in the 38th IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.

Abdullah Al Mutairi was 111th while Abdullah Al Qabandi was 117th and Abdullah Rabi’a followed in the 118th position in the competition dominated by Kenya in medals chart, Annahar daily said.

Some local journalists said that the head of the Kuwaiti delegation should have pulled out the players after he learned about the participation of the Israeli athletes.

“What is really shocking is that all this happened at the time when Arab leaders at their annual summit were discussing ways to deal with the Israeli behaviour,” Mustafa Juma’a said.

However, several Kuwaitis rejected the condemnation of the runners and of the officials, saying that the Israeli participation “should not be seen as a problem.”

“Does this mean that Kuwaiti athletes cannot take part in any competition if Israelis are in it as well? This is ridiculous because it means the end of our sports ambitions,” Mohammad wrote in the comments section of Al Rai.

Writing under the name Q8, a blogger mocked the condemnation. “Let us suppose that the Kuwaitis pulled out, will this mean that Israel is suffering? Who would be the loser? We have to be more realistic,” Q8 wrote.

Another blogger said that the runners should be blamed for failing to beat the Israelis and not for taking part in the competition.

“They should have used the occasion to show they are faster and stronger than the Israelis,” the blogger wrote.

Kuwait, like most Arab countries, has no diplomatic relations with Israel and its leaders said that they would be the last Arab country to normalize ties with Tel Aviv.

In 2007, Mushir Salem Jawher, a Kenya-born Bahraini athlete was stripped of the Bahraini nationality after taking part in the Tiberias Marathon in Israel. Bahrain Athletics Union said that Mushir had entered Israel with his Kenyan passport and that his Bahraini citizenship was revoked because he had “violated the laws of Bahrain.”

Israel was transferred from the Asian Football Confederation to the European federation after all Arab states refused to play against their team. No Israeli national team has played on Muslim soil in a competitive match for about more than three decades.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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