The first bouts of the IFMA World Cup in Kazan have taken place, with male and female athletes from around the world competing for 11 places at The World Games next summer in Wroclaw.
Two rings are needed for the high number of athletes, and they are placed in the centre of the Basket Arena in downtown Kazan. A little snow lined the steps outside, but that wasn’t going to put anyone off.
The Russian muaythai Federation and the local organisers in Kazan have really worked hard to create a special atmosphere. The athletes especially have said how they love the sweeping staircase which leads them from the preparation area down into the arena, lit every step of the way with pulsing lights and accompanied by uplifting music.
The tournament includes a special Friendship Cup for Juniors, so even the youngest IFMA athletes can now dream of what it will be like to walk those steps as an adult in senior competition!
It’s hard to pick out highlights but some standout moments included the loud support from the local Afghani population for each member of the Afghanistan national team. Flags, cheering and songs for Ali Nazari at 67kgs early in the day set the tone, and clearly inspired other supporters to up their game!
The members of the IFMA Female Commission were proud to see a high number of female Muslim athletes competing under different flags including that of IR Iran and Turkey. Turkmenistan also sent a women’s team as they prepare to host the Indoor Martial Arts Games next year. A modified uniform is available for these athletes if they choose, ensuring access to the tournament for everyone.
One of the stand-out bouts in the male division took place towards the end of the day when two of the powerhouses of the global muaythai took centre stage. Kuliaba Serhii from Ukraine took on Chuaisaeng Weerayut from Thailand at 67kgs.
Both of these countries already have many athletes qualified for Wroclaw but would love more of course! This bout went back and forth, with powerful blows echoing even above the live music provided by the Thai orchestra sitting ringside. A skillful exchange of knees in the centre of the ring during the second round, followed by a flurry of punches from the Ukraine’s fighter gave him the edge, and he pulled away to take the victory.
It’s a sign of how far muaythai is spreading its wings, that even here in the heart of Europe Thailand with its long history of excellence is finding challenges as the new generation takes on this ancient sport.
The next round of fights take place at 3pm, with another large crowd expected.