On Thursday 13th April, at noon, an important meeting took place in the office of the IJF President. Mr Marius Vizer indeed received a delegation from the refugee team that our federation has been supporting for years. On this special occasion the ten time world champion and twice individual Olympic champion Teddy Riner (FRA) was also present.

The refugee team is currently preparing for the world championships at the training centre in Hungary. The occasion was ideal for the members of the team to be welcomed in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere by the IJF President, who thus reaffirmed his full support.

Since the first participation of refugees at the Olympic Games in Rio 2016, during which judo was represented by two athletes, the IJF has never ceased to engage with those who have sometimes experienced very difficult times in their lives. During the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021, a team of refugees participated in the event, both individually and in the mixed team tournament. For several years, this team has also been actively involved in the World Judo Tour events and during the world championships, as will be the case during the World Judo Championships - Doha 2023, with the full support and commitment of the International Judo Federation.

Mr Vizer said, "It is a great pleasure to welcome the IJF Refugee Team to the Presidential Office in Budapest. It is an important moment because we could exchange in a friendly atmosphere and we could learn more about the stories of these athletes, who risked their lives for freedom. They are true champions and I am glad that they have found a new place, a new family: the judo family.

The presence of Teddy Riner, our biggest champion, was an inspiring moment and it was important for the athletes to meet their idol, but also their colleague and friend. In solidarity and unity we find our true human nature and I continue to believe that sport is a unique tool for peace, for building better societies, but also for changing the lives of people and developing their character and human quality."

Mr Vahid Sarlak, the coach of the IJF Refugee Team, said, "We are fighting for freedom and the IJF is supporting us. Freedom is everything for us and we are grateful to the IJF for the given opportunity to be free."

Teddy Riner declared, "There are some dark moments in the world today and we all have to stay on a positive and bright side of the world to make it a better place."

Together with Mr Vizer, Dr Laszlo Toth, EJU President and IJF Vice-President, Vlad Marinescu, IJF Director General, Armen Bagdasarov, Head Referee Director and Larisa Kiss, IJF International Relations Manager were also present.

To have the possibility of such exchanges is undeniably extraordinary. The words shared by all the participants of this luncheon will undoubtedly resonate for a long time in everyone's minds. In a few weeks everyone will meet in Doha, Qatar, for this world championships. This will once again be an opportunity to demonstrate the solidarity of the judo family.

IJF Refugee Team present in Budapest:

• Mr Vahid SARLAK (Germany, coach)

• Mr Jorn BECKER (Germany, physio)

• Ms Muna DAHOUK (Syria, living in the Netherlands, athlete -57kg)

• Ms Mahboubeh BARBARI ZHARFI (Iran, living in Germany, athlete +78kg)

• Mr Mohammad RASHNONEZHAD (Iran, living in the Netherlands, athlete -60kg)

• Mr Kavan MAJIDI (Iran, living in Great Britain/Scotland, athlete -66kg)

• Mr Arab SIBGHATULLAH (Afghanistan, living in Germany, athlete -81kg)

• Mr Adnan KHANKAN (Syria, living in Germany, athlete -100kg)

See also