Ramzi Shamirov is an IJF referee and has also been working for the Tajikistan Judo Federation for many years. He is one of thousands of proud Tajiks celebrating the debut of the Dushanbe Grand Prix in a country with a long and culturally ingrained history of grappling.

On day 1 in Dushanbe, the on-screen clock counted down the minutes prior to the first contests and as the time came closer the referees for each tatami stepped forward. Ramzi was among the first 3 referees and when his name was announced, before the judo had even begun, the spectators gave the most enormous cheer of appreciation. A small smile appeared on Ramzi’s face and then the tournament was underway.

“Tajikistan is a country of wrestlers and that’s close to judo. All people here know about wrestling and judo and all people are fans. As you can see the venue is full. Even if there were 100,000 seats it would be full. Around the city there are viewing centres set up so people can watch from all over the capital. The Dushanbe Grand Prix has the best atmosphere and it’s because of the passion of the fans.

I started judo at 6 aged in my home city, 500km from the capital. Judo is very popular there. I took my IJF referee B licence in 2008 and then the A licence in 2014 in Hong Kong. We have several IJF referees working all around Asia and further afield, especially on the continental cup circuit.”

Ramzi Shamirov (TJK) refereeing on day 3 in Dushanbe

Cheering for referees is something new and when there is so much specific support for the home referee, this must feel quite strange and also wonderful.

“Sport is such a huge part of life here and when you consider that our national tv channel shows all the judo events, a lot of judo fans know me from this, but I have also worked in the federation for a long time. Some people even know me from when I was national champion as an athlete. It feels amazing. I’m so proud of my country and having this support at the same level for athletes and referees is really special. I love this mentality."

Ramzi Shamirov refereeing on day 3 in Dushanbe

"In September we will be a 50 year old federation. Pre-civil war we had a really strong women’s team. Since then things have been different but not for all sports. We have many women in sport but culturally now many parents don’t want their girls in contact sport. However, here in Dushanbe they see their home event and see women fighting and it is really growing the interest already. We do have an Asian cup gold medallist from the women’s team but we have much more work to do and we are making progress. It’s important. The organising of the Dushanbe Grand Prix, by our federation president shows what a huge supporter he is and how much we are willing to work together for the development of judo in Tajikistan. I hope we get big results on the World Judo Tour and maybe even the Olympic Games, everything is possible.

This event promotes judo, promotes the country, promotes our values and it all starts with the city of Dushanbe, a place which can be like home for everyone who visits, it’s open for all. This is an open and independent country and welcoming people is something we are very good at.”

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