Oct 13, 2010

#BDS: Thai boxing fosters Iran-Israel friendship

When Israeli amateur Thai boxing champion Ilya Grad needs training partner, he goes to his good friend, Iranian champion Mostafa Abdollahi

Ilya Grad, Israel's Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing) champion, directs a stunning kick at his Iranian opponent. The Iranian kickboxer, Mostafa Abdollahi, staggers back but recovers fast and sends a punch of his own towards his Israeli opponent's face. Then something strange happens.

A moment after the sparring ends, the Iranian places a friendly arm on the Israeli's shoulder, and the Israeli responds with a wide smile. Then they go to get a cold drink together, talking about the training and the competitions coming up – just like two good friends. The fact they come from enemy states doesn't get in the way at all.

"Mostafa is a great guy," Grad (23) says. "He's proud of his country and nation, but he doesn't mix politics with sport, and he has no problem being my friend even though I'm Israeli. Politics? – we don't take it seriously. We both laugh at the situation between Israel and Iran."

Grad, from Jerusalem, has a list of sporting achievements to his name: Israeli amateur Thai boxing champion, Asia champion, and also placing third in the world. His friendship with the captain of Iran's leading boxing team began during the world championships in Bangkok, in 2009.

Grad asked Abdollahi (28) if he would be Grad's "corner-man" – the one who helps by providing towels and water during the breaks in the rounds and treats wounds if necessary. The Iranian agreed.

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