Algeria to Face Sanctions for No-show Against Israel in Rio Paralympics' Goalball

Like in previous cases, Arab team forfeits game; Israel drew its first game with Japan, 1-1, with Israeli Arab scoring goal.

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Israel's goalball team during a match against Japan, September 10, 2016.
Israel's goalball team during a match against Japan, September 10, 2016.Credit: Israel Paralympic Committee
Uri Talshir
Uri Talshir

Algeria’s women’s goalball team failed to appear for a match against Israel in the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on Friday, showing that some habits never change.

Like in the Olympics or other international competitions, when a representative of an Arab country that has no diplomatic relations with Israel is scheduled to play against a blue-and-white rival, he doesn’t show up.

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Goalball involves blind and visually impaired players playing with the aid of a bell inside the ball they are trying to get into their opponent’s goal. The crowd in the hall has to remain completely silent to allow the game to proceed properly. Israel sent a goalball team to the Paralympics for the first time this year. Ilham Mahamid, a native of Umm al-Fahm and a BA student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in education and theater, is the team’s captain.

Israel drew its first game with Japan, 1-1, with Mahamid scoring Israel’s goal.

The International Paralympic Committee said the Algerian team’s absence could be a form of political protest, which is banned in the Paralympics (as it is in the Olympics). IPC spokesman Craig Spence says Algerian officials “claim they suffered multiple delays, canceled flights and missed connections” attempting to board a flight September 5 from Warsaw, Poland, to Rio de Janeiro.

Spence said the rest of the Algerian delegation was in Rio. Algerian officials told the IPC that the goalball team would arrive today.

Spence said sanctions could range from a “slap on the wrist” to the team being “removed from the competition.” Algeria’s no-show means a technical victory for Israel. Besides the complex political reality, it’s sad to think about the women on the Algerian team who prepared for years for one of the biggest events in their lives and were forced to give up on it because of the random draw that set up a match with Israel.

“The moment the national squad entered the stadium with its country’s flag, it is obliged to appear against every country,” said Dani Ben Abu, the chairman of Israel’s Paralympic committee. “It has no right to decide who to compete against. It’s a basic law of sport. It’s a real shame that politics infiltrated handicapped sports, too.”

See Moran row

Israeli rower Moran Samuel. Credit: Iqor Meijer, AFP

In sports that actually took place, Israeli rower Moran Samuel started her quest for a Paralympic medal in the single sculls event on Friday. Her path to the podium, however, will include an additional, unexpected obstacle. Samuel showed up for her heat knowing that only first place would lead straight to the final, but three-tenths of a second separated her from her goal.

Samuel finished her 1,000-meter heat in 5:21.36 minutes, while Chinese rower Lili Wang completed the race in 5:21.04, claiming the automatic ticket by virtue of a few centimeters and a photo finish.

After just missing out on the automatic card, Samuel did what was necessary on Friday. Needing to finish in the top two, she handily won her repechage on Friday morning with a time of 5:22.96, which was also the best of the two races of the day.

She will compete in the final today, with Wang her main rival. Rachel Morris of Great Britain and Sweden’s Birgit Skarstein should also pose medal threats.

“It’ll be a great show,” promised Samuel, who will try to obtain Israel’s first medal of the 2016 Paralympics.

Reuven Magnagey and Yuliya Chernoy competed in the 1,000-meter heat of the mixed double sculls on Friday. Their time of 4:20.62 minutes was only good enough for fifth place. On Friday, they completed the repechage in 4:28.60, 24 seconds off second place, which would have given them a place in the final. Instead, they will compete in the B final today for 7th-12th place.

In the mixed gender 4x50-meter relay, Israel’s team made it to the final but was disqualified because its representatives didn’t get out of the water in the time allotted for their class.

In table tennis, Caroline Tabib, ranked sixth in the world, defeated her Mexican opponent to make the quarterfinal round. But Tabib, 19, lost 3-0 to China’s Gai Gu last night.

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