Yemeni judo champion Ali Khousrof to the Yemen Times: “I want to put aside my London Olympics loss and think about the future.”
In this interview, Khousrof revealed the secrets behind his participation, elaborating on the difficulties he faced in the tournament. He optimistically spoke about his determination and willingness to forget his loss in London and to move on. Now, he thinks about the future.
You recently participated in the London Olympics, which ended in a loss from the outset. What exactly happened?
It is true my two-month preparation was good, yet the major factor behind my loss was the absence of adequate technical training in addition to lacking a special coach to accompany me. In the course of the training period in Japan and Uzbekistan, I trained myself alone. I was qualified for the tournament, and my performance was good. There were some technical mistakes in the match causing me to receive two ultimatums. I lost the match. Also, the absence of a coach was the number-one factor behind my loss.
Why were you not provided a coach like the rest of of the players?
I posed this question to the Judo General Union (JGU); however, the foreign coach, who was supposed to train me, left Yemen due to events witnessed in 2011. In fact, the JGU made an attempt to find me a foreign coach, but coaches refused. There was a negotiation with an Egyptian coach, but he feared the ongoing situation in Yemen. God willing, a coach will be found in the upcoming period.
At the London Olympics, it was said that Captain Mohammed Sobie trained and supervised you. Is this true?
It is an honor to be trained by Captain Mohammed Sobie. He is an important trainer and a former hero. But I exercised with him two times only. It was just a preparation two days before the tournament. I was not fully prepared and trained a month or two before the match so that he (Sobie) could know my level, realize my weaknesses to avoid and prepare a tactic to be followed.
What would have happened if you had a coach? Would the result be different?
Of course, the coach is the major factor behind the win. A good coach guarantees one half of victory; the player is the second half. I believe I would have more positive results if I was trained—four to five months prior to the match—by an excellent coach such as Mohammed Sobie or Mohammed Hilimi. As I mentioned, technical mistakes led to my loss in my first match. That was because I had no coach who could help me understand my weaknesses and strengths.
Did you expect you would commit technical mistakes that could cost you the match?
For sure, I knew that. When a player faces another player with a coach, I believe they (the player with his trainer) will succeed.
How was the reaction of the Yemeni delegation, headed by the minister of youth and sport, to your loss?
I think they felt extremely sad just as I did. As I told you, the circumstances begot my loss. Frankly speaking, I want to forget this and think about future participations. I think the judo players in Yemen train on daily basis, and they have determination to accomplish further achievements.
What was your greatest ambition for the London Olympics?
My ambition was to win the medal. My purpose was not just participation. My dream was bigger. I wished I could win the medal, yet that didn’t happen. God willing, the future is better.
Honestly speaking, has this loss affected you sport spirit?
Indeed, anyone experiencing the same loss would be affected. I dreamed of realizing more success. I looked at the situation and was grateful for God. Now there is no place for frustration in my heart. I will overcome this problem, God willing.
What has the Ministry of Youth and Sport or the Judo General Union done for you since you returned?
The union is about to sign an agreement with a new Coach. Officials in the union are negotiating with several coaches from Cuba, Tunisia and Korea. I hope they will sign an agreement with a new coach to help me achieve more accomplishments in the future.
I think that the ministry is paying attention to that, too. But, as you know, leaders in Yemen pledge to do several things before holding activities, but as soon as these activities finish, they forget everything. They don’t care whether a player wins or loses because they don’t show a real interest.
I know that the ministry and the union want to do something, but I don’t know why they get busy with other things.
What do you think Yemeni Judo players lack?
Fighting games in general needs long preparation. As for Yemeni players, they are incomparable, particularly in fighting games and individual games.
I think if the young players received enough attention, I bet they will be champions in the Olympics in the future.
What do you need to achieve victory both inside and outside Yemen?
I think we participated before in championships both inside and outside Yemen and scored medals in all these championships to honor Yemen. At that time, we had foreign coaches and technical teams, but after that the coaches left Yemen, and this made us lose.
You always mention foreign coaches. Aren’t there professional local coaches?
Yes, there are qualified local coaches, but they are only allowed to train young players. They don’t train professional players who participate in international championships.
Judo started in Yemen 20 years ago, while in other countries it started 150 years ago, so they have greater experience. I hope that in the upcoming years, Yemeni coaches will have greater experience.
How did you start playing Judo?
I started playing when I was four years old in Al-Wahda Club, with my maternal uncle Mohammed Khousrof and my brother Shadi Khousrof. I played there for three years, participating in beginner, young, adult and men’s championships gradually. After that I participated with Yemen’s national team.
Have you played for other clubs?
I played once in Najmat Saba in the Arab Clubs Championships.
When was your first competition?
It was in the Yemeni beginners’ championship in 1994 when I was 5 years old, but I lost.
What are your most prominent achievements, both inside and outside Yemen?
I participated in the Youth West Asian Championship in Sana’a in 2004 and got a gold medal with an Iranian coach who started Judo in Yemen and made us professional players.
Moreover, I was awarded a gold medal at the Al-Aqsa Championship in 2005 and a bronze medal at the West Asian Championship in 2006.
In a championship in Germany, you withdrew against an Israeli player. Some said you were afraid to lose. What is the truth?
In fact, I was supposed to play against an Israeli player, but I didn’t and even didn’t attend to the stadium. So, I was excluded of the championship.
Some people criticized me, saying I withdrew for a political purpose of the union. Others said I gained more weight, while some people said there wasn’t an Israeli player at all.
In fact, I didn’t play against the Israeli player because of my attitude against Israelis who are occupying Palestine. I refused to play because had I played, it would be recognition of Israel.
Frankly, it happened many times before that Arab and Muslim players—including Iranians and Tunisians—refused to play against Israeli players.
You participated in last year’s protests and were exposed to injury during a demonstration. Did it affect your level?
Yes, it affected me a little bit. I stopped playing for a period, but frankly the revolution encouraged me so much. I was injured in a protest near Al-Thawra Stadium and stopped playing for seven months, but after that I achieved several victories.
I participated in the Jackpot championship in China and won against a British player. I also qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London.
Who supported you?
Actually, my family supported me very much. They stood by my side and helped me when I was injured.
The Judo union also supported me, and Noa’man Shaher, head of the union, helped me a lot and supported me during and after the operation I had.
What else do you want to say?
I hope the officials in Yemen won’t politicize sports, will pay more attention to players, provide more coaches and hold training matches inside and outside Yemen. Thank you for the interview.