When athletes switch nationality in search of greener pastures!
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