03/21/2023, 09.14
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Controversy over Chechen wrestlers in the French team

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The team that participated in the European Championships consisted only of refugees from Chechnya. They fled with their families at the time of the Putin war against Chechen separatists. It is now normal in sports for national teams to be multi-ethnic. Moscow attacks.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - A strange case of ethnic politics is shaking up the sporting world, in reaction to the composition of the French youth wrestling team for the 2023 European Championships, in which only ethnic Chechen champions were presented.

In Russia, this fact has stirred up a lot of controversy, as as a result of international sanctions all Russian sportsmen are excluded from competitions, wondering where these Chechen refugees, dedicated to competitive wrestling, came from.

According to official reports, the group stems from the flight of Chechens during the civil war in the early 2000s. In Bucharest from 13 to 19 March, six wrestlers with unambiguous names competed unsuccessfully in different categories to defend the colours of France: Adam Bibulatov, Khamzat Arsamerzuev, Mukhammad-Amin Sangariev, Magamed Deliev, Rakhim Magamadov and Adlan Viskhanov.

The French daily Sport Express also asked the question: 'How could it happen that great Russian fighters are kept out, and the entire French team is made up of Chechens?'

A prominent member of the Chechen diaspora in France, Movladi Abdulaev, an athlete, judge and martial arts coach who has been living in Paris since 2003, argues that the presence of foreign athletes for other countries is now a regular practice, although the French fighters' team is indeed an exception.

"It is not uncommon to see in Western teams Caucasians such as Dagestanians or Ossetinians, or even Siberian Jakuti... we have Chechen legionnaires in the teams of Albania, Romania, Bulgaria and other countries, in France the situation is unique because of the totality of Chechens in the team, but they are all born here, or have been residing here since early childhood."

One of the fighters, Rakhim Magamadov, was born in Gudermes in Chechnya, and told the French magazine Le Dépêche that he remembers nothing of his early years in the Caucasus, from which his family had fled in 2008, when he was only four years old and Putinist Russia was concluding its 'anti-terrorist operation'.

'I am very proud to be Chechen,' Rakhim assures us. 'Since I was six years old, my father enrolled me in the Montalbano wrestling club near Nice, even though I wanted to play football, but we are Chechens; in our family it's either wrestling or nothing'.

The parents of Adlan Viskhanov, a former medal winner, also fled Groznyj in 2008 due to his mother's illness and 'the uncertain situation in Russia'.

The president of the Sports Wrestling Federation in Russia, Mikhail Mamiašvili, told Match Tv that 'these are people from France, who have not and would never have been part of the Russian national team... the French go around in gay parades, at least the Chechens there deal with men's things', provoking very sharp reactions from other members of the martial arts world.

Abdulaev himself commented that 'the Russian Federation president has come to France a lot of times, and he must have realised that very few French people go to gay parades... from athletes it is not uncommon to hear such crude jokes, but from Mamiašvili I did not expect it'.

Russian journalist and political scientist Ivan Preobražensky remarked in an interview with Kavkaz.Realii that 'no sports official or commentator in Russia today can openly admit that tens of thousands of Chechens are in Europe, because of the long war against the Chechen people', and the French wrestling team was a blatant telltale of a very important situation, and one that was silenced by all.

The exodus of Chechens affected a huge number of people following the two post-Soviet wars, and the current conflict in Ukraine is pushing many more to leave the Caucasian country.

Abdulaev bitterly concludes that 'if sport were completely unrelated to politics, then I would be against the exclusion of any sportsman from competitions, except those who make explicit propaganda of war, racism and inter-ethnic hatred, but sport is actually always mixed with politics, and one must resign oneself to it'.

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