Israeli badminton player blames loss on last-minute visa

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli badminton player blamed his loss in the world championships on the last-minute granting of a visa by Indonesia.

Moshe Zilberman, ranked 44th in the world, lost Tuesday in the first round of the World Badminton Championship in Jakarta to Hsu Jen Hao of Taiwan.

The visa for Zilberman, 26, was approved on Monday, and he arrived in Jakarta later the same day under tight security, according to the Olympic Committee of Israel. Zilberman applied for the visa six months prior to the championship and had been waiting in Singapore, a short flight to Jakarta, for two weeks hoping it would come through before the start of competition on Monday.

“On one hand I was happy that I could be here, but on the other, I was disappointed as I could not demonstrate even 50 percent of my ability. I did not train in the past five days,” Zilberman said in an interview distributed by the Badminton World Federation on Tuesday.

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The federation had intervened to help Zilberman obtain the visa, The Associated Press reported, citing Olympic Committee of Israel Secretary-General Gili Lustig.

In a Facebook post, Zilberman thanked “all the people who supported me and who joined in my struggle to change the politics of sports forever.”

He left Indonesia shortly after losing the match and returned to Singapore.

Indonesia, a nation of some 250 million citizens, is the world’s largest Muslim country in terms of population. Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Indonesia.

Arab and Muslim countries have repeatedly barred Israeli athletes from attending matches, sometimes as punishment for the barring of Palestinian athletes by Israel from attending international tournaments.

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