Qatar's $1M Bulgarian Snatch

Qatar lures athletes with citizenship, cash
Country importing athletes to help win medals at Asian Games

Updated: 6:00 p.m. ET Dec. 8, 2006
DOHA, Qatar - Three Qatari men sit in the stands at the Asian Games, chatting about athletes representing their country. One says to the others: “Qatari sportswoman, Chen Zhu.”

The three burst into laughter.

A chess player, the Chinese-born Chen is not the only foreigner representing Qatar in the Asian Games, being held for the first time in an Arab country.

More than a dozen athletes who have traded their talent for citizenship and cash from this oil-rich Gulf state are competing here under the flag of Qatar, the host nation.

So far only one of them has won a medal for Qatar, which had three silver and two bronze medals overall in the first six days of competition.

Salem Jaber, formerly known as Yani Marchokov, on Wednesday won the silver medal for Qatar in the heaviest weightlifting division.

When asked by reporters to bring the medalist for an interview, one of his handlers replied that Jaber “can only speak Bulgarian and some Russian.” Told that there is a translator from Russian to English, the organizer later said the weightlifter did not want to speak.

Qatar paid $1 million to the Bulgarian weightlifting federation for eight athletes in 1999, according to reports. The original deal was that the weightlifters were to keep their given names. But most were given Arabic names almost immediately.

It’s not only Bulgarian and Chinese. There are handfuls of athletes from Kenya, as well as a soccer player from Uruguay, playing for Qatar.

But such imports are not new for the Gulf state.

The country won its first major medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics courtesy of Somali-born runner Mohammed Suleiman, who came third in the 1,500 meters.

Weightlifter Saif Saeed Asaad, formerly known as Angel Popov, won the second bronze medal for Qatar at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

“I came here to win a medal. It doesn’t matter what medal. I hope this will make me a champion for all the youth of Qatar,” he said at the time.

Asaad did not win a medal in Doha. And Saif Saeed Shaheen, the world record holder in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, withdrew because of an Achilles tendon injury. Shaheen was born in Kenya but has won two world championship titles for Qatar.

The International Association of Athletics Federation, at its council meeting in Doha last year, ruled that athletes must wait for three years from the time they were granted a citizenship to represent an adopted country.

Under the old rules, an athlete could represent compete for an adopted homeland three years after competing for another, regardless of when the new passport was issued.

“The issue of citizenship is a legal and sovereign right for countries and this does not only happen in Asia but all over the world,” said Sheik Ahmed al-Fahd Al Sabah, president of the Olympic Council of Asia. “It is legal and sovereign as long as it is done according to the laws of concerned union.

“It is the sovereign right of every country to give citizenship to whoever they want.”

Among the other Africa-born athletes competing under new flags are middle distance runner Daham Najam Bashair, formerly known as David Nyaga, James C’Kurui and long distance runner Mubarak Hassan Shami, formerly known as Richard Yatich.

Asked whether the Asian Games interferes in citizenship matters, Ahmed Abdulla Al Khulaifi, the Doha organizing committee deputy director general, said it was not for him to judge.

“We cannot interfere in such matters because it has specialized sides such as the Olympic Council of Asia or the Olympic committees of each country,” he said.

A Qatari official said they have no ministry of sports and they have no lists of foreigners given citizenship.

More than 60 percent of Qatar’s 744,000 population are foreigners, mostly from South Asia and the Philippines. Many people come here looking for jobs in a country that has one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

“We are proud that Doha is a mixture of all nationalities. There are people who have been living here for a long time and they work and live with their families,” Al Khulaifi said. “We consider them brothers and family, and we are proud of them because they are a major part of the society.”

Qatar is not alone in importing foreign athletes.

Bahrain and Lebanon are known to have given citizenship to potential athletes and Singapore has recruited in China. Some Western countries have done it for decades.

Still, there are athletes who refuse to exchange their citizenship for any price.

Iran’s best weightlifter, Hossein Rezazadeh, declined a Turkish offer of $20,000 a month, a luxury villa and a reward of $10 million to win Turkey a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Rezazadeh won the gold medal in Doha, holding the winning lift above his head for a full 10 seconds with a big grin, and a nod to the Iranian flag.

© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
:eek: bit to late for that notice i guess.

maybe Qatar needs to approach Fiji for the next asian games in rugby…

great to see my old mates have a big win…

Record win comes to Chinese Taipei’s rescue
Chinese Taipei crushed hosts Qatar 82-0 – the biggest winning margin in sevens history at the Asian Games – in their opening match at Al-Arabi Sports Club and it was this emphatic win which ultimately saw them reach the semifinals.

The 2002 silver medallists gave Qatar a baptism of fire on their international sevens debut on Sunday 10 December, scoring within 30 seconds of the whistle in the pool C encounter and then running in a further 11 tries with captain Chang Wei Cheng scoring five of them.

Qatar were simply no match for their more athletic opponents, their home advantage counting for little as they struggled to hold onto the ball and lacked pace and fitness in both defence and attack. The match was so one-sided that within 10 minutes Chinese Taipei had already surpassed the previous biggest margin – Korea’s 56-0 defeat of Kazakhstan in 1998 – and it got little better for Qatar in their next match with Japan.

Akihito Yamada scored five of Japan’s 10 tries in a 58-0 rout – the second biggest winning margin ever – but Qatar’s Fijian coach Usaia Biumaiwai was nonetheless proud of his charges, who have had just months to learn the game.

“They have learnt a lot from these two games and from the tournament. They didn’t know the level of international tournaments, but now they know. They have progressed in these two matches and that’s what I wanted to see,” he said.

These high scores made it virtually certain that the best runner up would come from this pool, the question was would it be Japan or Chinese Taipei? The final pool C encounter answered that question … Chinese Taipei.

This is because Japan outscored their rivals by four tries to one in a 24-7 victory; Masahiro Tsuiki – who also endured a trip to the sin-bin – Yusaku Kuwazuru, Hiroki Yoshida and Takeshi Fujiwawra scoring to cancel out Chen Wen Yen’s try that had given Chinese Taipei a slender 7-5 half time lead.

Chinese Taipei though will have the chance to avenge this defeat as the teams meet again in the first semifinal on Monday 11 December. The winner is expected to meet Korea, the only ever rugby gold medallists at the Asian Games, in the final.

“It was our own mistakes that caused our downfall. We are looking forward to meeting them again,” Chinese Taipei’s Fijian coach Tomasi Cama said. (from the great fijian 7’s teams of the past)
Korea, who have won both sevens and 15-man events which were held in both 1998 and 2002, face China in the other semifinal after brushing aside the challenge of Hong Kong, China and Thailand in pool A.

Hong Kong, China provided the sterner test for Korea in the opening match of the competition at Doha 2006, the sides being locked at 7-7 at half time before two tries from Chun Jong Man saw the favourites to a 21-7 victory.

Bronze medallists in both 1998 and 2002, Thailand lost 26-21 to a last gasp try by Hong Kong, China’s Ricky Cheuk Ming Yin and it got even worse against Korea, the champions running out 42-0 winners.

This was one of five matches from the nine across the three pools to make it into the top 10 of biggest winning margins, the others being Sri Lanka’s 48-0 defeat of India and China’s 41-0 victory over the same side making their Games debut.

Chun Jong Man scored a hat-trick in this rout, which leaves Thailand able to finish no higher than seventh in the tournament, although they should do this with ease as they will meet the winner of India v Qatar.

“The first game against Hong Kong was tough but this one was easier,” said Korea captain Kim Hyung Ki, who already has four gold medals to his name.

“Four years ago Korea were the only strong team, but now Chinese Taipei and Japan are strong and we will face one in the quarterfinals. Still I think it will be ok. We can win.”

China finished top of pool B, although they had to dig deep against Sri Lanka in their final game. The Sri Lankans, cheered on by a sizeable contingent in the crowd, scored the opening try trhough Anuradha Dharmathilake.

However five unanswered tries – from Sun Tao, Li Yang, He Zhongliang and a brace by Li Yang – eased any Chinese nerves with the 31-5 win ending Sri Lanka’s hopes of a semifinal spot.

Sri Lanka will have to instead contend themselves with the chance to finish fifth – one better than they managed in 2002 – by beating Hong Kong, China in the fifth place playoff. Win or lose Hong Kong, China have bettered their eighth place.

and to continue the farce

silver medal in the 400m goes to.

Brandon Allan Simpson - former jamican then american now running for bahrain. or was it american then jamaican :confused: