When ath­letes switch na­tion­al­ity in search of greener pas­tures!

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Sport -

Doha: Just as mi­grant work­ers built Qatar’s sta­di­ums, a for­eign-born medal­ist is build­ing its rep­u­ta­tion in track.

Ab­der­rah­man Samba’s bronze in the 400-me­ter hur­dles Mon­day was the first Qatari medal at the world track cham­pi­onships and sparked joy in the VIP en­clo­sure, the one part of the sta­dium where lo­cal fans were dom­i­nant.

“To­day when they say my name, ev­ery­body starts scream­ing,” Samba said. “I say to my­self, ‘Just go, man.’”

Samba was born in Saudi Ara­bia and com­peted for his fa­ther’s home na­tion of Mau­ri­ta­nia in Africa be­fore get­ting a Qatari pass­port in 2015, just five months af­ter mov­ing to the coun­try. Such na­tion­al­ity switches are a sore point for track’s in­ter­na­tional gov­ern­ing body.

For years the IAAF has been try­ing to shut down what its coun­cil mem­ber Ha­mad Kalk­aba Mal­boum likened in 2017 to a “whole­sale mar­ket for African tal­ent.”

“You can’t have ath­letes be­ing traded, it’s bor­der­ing on traf­fick­ing if you’re not care­ful,” IAAF pres­i­dent Se­bas­tian Coe said in Au­gust. “I’ve had mem­ber fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dents who have said to me openly that they were wak­ing up to emails from peo­ple say­ing ‘We’ve got

Lyles proves he’s the man to beat in 200m:

Noah Lyles clocked the top time in the 200 me­tres semi­fi­nals on Mon­day, sig­nalling the Amer­i­can is the man to beat for gold here. Lyles was all busi­ness as he crossed the line in 19.86 se­conds. Fourth on the world all-time list be­hind Usain Bolt, Yo­han Blake and Michael John­son, Lyles has had the look of that qual­ity here with Ecuador's Alex Quinonez the only other run­ner to dip un­der 20 se­cond by clock­ing 19.95. so and so (who) is avail­able for ...’ You can’t have that.”

Qatar’s team has ath­letes orig­i­nally from at least six other coun­tries in­clud­ing Bri­tain, Nige­ria and Egypt. Qatar of­fers ath­letes ad­vanced train­ing fa­cil­i­ties and a chance to shine. The new ar­rivals gen­er­ally don’t have prior ties to the na­tion.

In a coun­try where na­tive Qataris are vastly out­num­bered by mi­grant work­ers, whether Bangladesh­is on con­struc­tion sites or ser­vice work­ers from the Philip­pines, re­ly­ing on im­ported tal­ent is noth­ing new. Qatar’s two-time Olympic high jump medal­ist Mu­taz Barshim was born in the coun­try, but some­times Qatar and other na­tions seem to be­have like pro­fes­sional soc­cer clubs rather than na­tional teams.

The IAAF has re­ported Ashraf Am­jad Al-Saifi was “spot­ted’’ when win­ning the Egyp­tian youth ti­tle in ham­mer throw aged 15 and handed a Qatari pass­port a few months later in 2011. New IAAF rules aim to pre­vent a re­peat with a three-year wait­ing pe­riod to com­pete for a new na­tion.

In the Kenyan town of Iten, known as the “Uni­ver­sity of Cham­pi­ons’’ for train­ing star dis­tance run­ners, Qatar promised to build a sta­dium af­ter nat­u­ral­iz­ing Kenyan run­ner Stephen Cherono, later known as Saif Saaeed Sha­heen. The track was to bear the tar­tan pat­tern found on lo­cal peo­ple’s cloaks.

Al­though Sha­heen brought Qatar onto the in­ter­na­tional track stage with world cham­pi­onship gold medals in 2003 and 2005, no sta­dium was ever built. Re­nato Canova, an Ital­ian dis­tance coach who for­merly trained Qatar’s team and now works in Kenya, ar­gues ath­letes have the right to switch to es­cape tough com­pe­ti­tion for squad places at home.

“The coun­try of course is not happy when you change cit­i­zen­ship, but the point of view is the in­di­vid­ual point of view. It’s not that the fed­er­a­tion here is guilty, there are thou­sands of ath­letes, and it’s not pos­si­ble to as­sist ev­ery­body,’’ Canova said.


FROM MAU­RI­TA­NIA TO QATAR: Ab­der­rah­man Samba

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