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Yemenis divided by war, united by sport




One delivered gas cylinders in government-run Aden for a living and the other cooked meals in rebel-held Sanaa. Now the two athletes from war-torn Yemen find themselves on the same team at the Asian Games.

Yemen has been in the grip of a war since 2014 pitting forces loyal to the internationally recognised government against the Iran-backed Huthi rebels. The conflict has cost hundreds of thousands of lives.


The Yemeni team at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China is the only sign of the country’s unity, according to delegation chief Abdel Sattar al-Hamadani.

“We marched behind a single banner at the opening of the Games,” Hamadani told AFP.

“Sport has paid a heavy price for the war,” added Hamadani, who heads the Yemeni Basketball Association, pointing out the absence of any material support, apart from that provided by the International Olympic Committee and Asian bodies.

Said al-Khodr, a judo fighter from Aden, worked in the morning and trained in the afternoon to make the Games team.

“The love of sport runs through my veins and I toil from dawn until 3:00 pm carrying gas cylinders on my back to deliver across the city,” he said.


“Then I take a shower and go to my judo training session nine or 10 kilometres (five-six miles) from home,” said the 19-year-old father-of-one.

The athlete said he often hitchhikes to training because the transport allowance from his judo club “isn’t enough to cover my costs”.

The Yemeni economy was already in crisis before the Huthis seized Sanaa in September 2014, prompting a Saudi-led military alliance to intervene the following March.

Khodr said at one stage he quit the sport given the difficulties, including a close call when shrapnel from bombing fell around the car in which he was travelling.

“I gave my uniform to someone else because I couldn’t bear to see it hanging up in my house,” he said.


“I lasted five or six months and then one day my feet took me to the club and I had to pay $300 for a new outfit.”

Yussef Iskander, another athlete in the small Yemeni delegation, says he narrowly escaped death when a shell exploded as he left the hall where he was practising the martial art of wushu.

One piece of shrapnel pierced his foot, another killed one of his teammates and a third caused the amputation of another’s foot.

The explosion happened in Taez, a city in the southwest of the Arabian Peninsula country.

“Because of the injury I stopped training from 2015 to 2021, but eventually resumed to raise the Yemeni flag in China,” he said.


A silver medallist at the Arab Games in Beirut in 2014, Iskander, who is expecting his second child, trains for about an hour a day.

“China has been preparing for the Games for a year and a half and we’ve been preparing for just one month here,” he said in Hangzhou.

Iskander rejects the idea of emigrating, but judoka Abdalla Faye, 29, wants to escape his war-ravaged homeland.

“I want to go to France, where judo is practised, where I can flourish, but I have no money,” he said.

The Sanaa resident has two jobs, alternating between delivering ready-made meals and working as a security guard in the rebel-held capital.


“I go to training exhausted, which doesn’t help me prepare for big tournaments,” said Faye, who came 17th in the -73kg category at the Games.

Yemen’s medal tally in Hangzhou is zero with the multisport event halfway through.

But Hamadani hopes his country can take part in the 2024 Paris Olympics, saying he has already received invitations for athletics, boxing and swimming.

He intends to lead an official delegation to France – if he can get out of Yemen, where airports are few and numerous checks are carried out by the warring factions for movement between areas.


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Haris Rauf’s BBL participation uncertain as PCB delays NOC: report




Pakistan pacer Haris Rauf’s participation in the Big Bash League 2023-24 is met with a potential hurdle as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is expected to delay the issuance of the No-Objection Certificate (NOC) required for his engagement in the league.

According to ESPNCricinfo, Rauf’s NOC is likely to face a delay until at least December 11, just four days after the start of the BBL. There is no confirmation of an immediate issuance thereafter.

The explanation for the delay revolves around the ongoing National T20 Cup in Pakistan, scheduled until December 10, which the PCB expects Haris Rauf to fully engage in.


Last week, Wahab Riaz, Pakistan’s recently appointed chief selector, disclosed that Rauf had declined participation in Pakistan’s Test series in Australia scheduled for December-January.

Wahab openly expressed his displeasure at Rauf’s decision, with both sides differing on the events leading up to this point. Reportedly, the 30-year-old cited his inexperience in Test cricket as the reason for not agreeing to play in Australia. Rauf conveyed to Wahab that focusing on his white-ball game and fitness would be more beneficial.

Rauf’s potential absence from the BBL could raise concerns, especially for Melbourne Stars, who had enlisted him as a key player. Initially, it was expected that Rauf would only miss the BBL during Pakistan’s five-match T20 series in New Zealand in mid-January. However, further delays may disrupt the league’s plans.

Melbourne Stars had introduced special memberships named “House of Rauf” for the initial three games at the MCG this year, along with a dedicated seating zone called Haris Rauf Bay.

Ongoing delays in Rauf’s NOC issuance may raise concerns among Pakistan’s centrally contracted players in general. Two more players, Usama Mir (Melbourne Stars) and Zaman Khan (Sydney Thunder), are also selected for the league.


Contract discussions between the PCB and the players faced obstacles, partly due to disagreements over the number of foreign leagues players could participate in annually. They seem to have settled on a limit of two leagues, contingent on the PCB issuing an NOC for participation.

The BBL is set to start from December 7, 2023, to January 24 2024.