The Jakarta Post
An Israeli who was only granted a visa at the 11th hour to compete in the world badminton championships in Muslim-majority Indonesia blamed the immigration saga for his early departure from the tournament on Tuesday.
Misha Zilberman, who represented Israel at the London 2012 Olympics, was defeated by Taiwan's Hsu Jen-hao 21-14, 21-14 in his opening round match in Jakarta, ending his campaign.
The 26-year-old shuttler had initially been refused permission to enter Indonesia and was stuck in Singapore, a short flight from Jakarta, in the run-up to the tournament.
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, and the Jewish state do not have formal diplomatic ties and it is difficult for Israelis to visit the Southeast Asian nation.
But he was granted a visa at the last minute after the Badminton World Federation directly intervened on his behalf.
The federation confirmed with AFP its secretary general Thomas Lund travelled to Singapore to assist with his case.
The Israeli player did not speak to media following his first-round loss, with the badminton federation citing security concerns for his absence.
But in an interview with the federation, he blamed the fracas around his visa for his poor showing, saying the whole experience had not been easy after a year of careful preparation for the championships.
"I am very disappointed that I didn't show even 50 per cent of what I could because I didn't practise for the last five days or hit any shuttles," he said.
"I thought I could play better... more close to him. I would have needed three or four days to come and feel everything."
Despite the outcome, Zilberman said he had been happy to compete in Jakarta, saying it was proof "sport is more important than politics".
The World Jewish Congress welcomed the decision Monday to allow Zilberman access to Indonesia, saying athletes who qualify for international events should be allowed to compete regardless of their nationality.
According to Indonesian immigration regulations, Israelis who wish to visit the country must obtain a special visa in Bangkok or Singapore after getting a sponsorship letter from Indonesian officials. (++++)
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