Tensions between Israel and Arab countries were recently made visible in a rather surprising place: on a badminton court. On August 1, during an international junior tournament held in Ukraine, two young Saudi players refused to shake hands with an opposing team because one of the two players was from Israel. They then walked off the court, forfeiting their match.
The incident was caught on camera. In a Facebook post, the Israeli player, Max Grinblat, explained that it was filmed by the Saudi team’s coach.
The video elecited a range of reactions. Some of the comments highly praised the young Saudis for taking this political stance, which reflects their state’s position towards Israel.
“My state [Saudi Arabia] does not consider Israel a legitimate state. So how could they play with them? Playing with them would suggest legitimising their state.”
But others suggested that actions like this are unnecessary, and that sports should be kept separate from politics.
“Forfeiting is considered an act of weakness and defeat! Play against them, beat them and raise your head high.”
This is not the first time such an incident has taken place. In the 2016 Rio Olympics, an Egyptian judoka, Islam al Shehaby, refused to shake his Israeli opponent’s hand after their match. During these same Olympics, Lebanese athletes refused to share a bus with Israeli athletes.
Article written by Roxane Daoud.