Israeli kickboxer a hit in pro-Palestine Malaysia
October 28, 2011
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 28 — Boxer Ilya Grad has made history as the first Israeli to enter Malaysia, wave his country’s flag and leave in one piece, according to a news report from the Middle East nation.
Malaysia has no diplomatic ties with Israel due to the majority Muslim government’s pro-Palestinian stand in the long-running Middle East dispute.
Israeli news site Ynetnews.com reported yesterday Grad, 24, as starring in a sports reality TV show recorded in Malaysia, “a country which legally bans the entry of Israelis”.
It added he was detained for 25 hours during entry until Malaysia’s youth and sports minister intervened and handed him a special visa, but noted immigration refused to stamp Grad’s Israeli passport.
Ynetnews reported local audience booed and loudly roared their disapproval when Grad (picture) entered the ring.
“When I wanted to start the first fight, the producers demanded that I carry a flag of Russia, the country I was born in. It was absurd, and I explained to them that if I was forced to do that I would fly back home immediately,” Grad was quoted as saying on Ynetnews.
Grad was last year’s Asian muaythai champion and the second runner-up in the world championship.
“They eventually gave in and waved our flag on prime-time TV,” said the Israeli nicknamed “Achilles” for his classical good looks and love of Greek mythology.
But Grad recounted that his experience in Malaysia was not all bitter.
“I was comforted when I left the ring and was approached by many Malaysians who apologised for booing and said that I was the real winner,” he was reported saying.
In a separate piece penned for a muaythai sports blog, Grad said he made some good local friends, including with the Malaysian champion, Mohd Faizal Ramli.
“With the support of Malaysian ministers, we made an exceptional achievement to let an Isreali athlete fight in Malaysia holding the Israeli flag. It takes us one step forward to live in peace as a species and proves Malaysia to be a civilised and modern society,” he wrote in the Muay Thai Authority.
The “Muay Thai Challenger” brings 16 of the world’s best kickboxers in the same house to eat, sleep and train together, and in the evenings they fight in a ring in front of the cameras.
The show is currently airing all over Asia on Sony-owned AXN, which Ynetnews mistakenly referred to as a Malaysian station.
Grad has been based in Thailand for the past four years.
This is not the first time Malaysia has approved the entry of Israeli athletes..
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