One sixteen year old athlete at the European Championships has been on a longer journey than most to reach the rings for his bout tomorrow.
Mahmud Davlatov is living in Germany with some of his family as refugees from Tajikistan. He is competing in Paris under the IFMA Refugee Team banner.
When asked how he felt standing in the line-up with all the other teams during the Opening Ceremony, he smiled shyly and said simply: ‘I felt like a legend.’
Mahmud’s family had political problems at home, and he has been living in Germany for one year. His father, former head of the Tajik muaythai federation made contact with the Germany federation to try and ensure a normal life as possible for his sons.
Now Mahmud travels two hours each way by train for his muaythai sessions, three times a week.
Already with 35 bouts to his name, he said: ‘I feel like here I am the same as everyone, it’s class here, there is a great standard. I would have to have a clean and fair bout. The best of the best are here, and I hope I can show I belong with them.
‘I would like to win Inshallah I will get close to the gold.’
Tomorrow he will compete in the 16-17 Youth division in front of the crowd in Halle Georges Carpentier in Paris, under the banner of IFMA Banner Team.
He said: ‘The training in Germany is different to the way we did it at home of course but it’s muaythai. I love going there, there are so many gyms coming together here. We have plenty of time to spar and I meet new people to practice with all the time.’
Mahmud and his family are also giving their time at the gym to the Muaythai Against Drugs programme which the federation wins.
Detlef Turnau, head of the federation said: ‘It’s inspiring to see how involved Mahmud is in the gym. We try to be like a family there, and even though he has lost everything he wants to be part of this project. It’s something which makes him feel involved.
‘In Germany there is a government policy of ‘Integration Through Sport’ – you couldn’t get better than this as an example.’
Mahmud’s visa to travel was granted for this tournament, with the support of MTBD and Mr Turnau.
IFMA will continue to use the unique power of sport to show solidarity with refugees everywhere . The federations practice a non-discrimination practice, regardless of race, colour or religion.
IFMA Sports Director Charissa Tynan said: ‘IFMA will continue to give any athlete the possibility to compete. We already saw a Youth team compete under the Refugee Team banner in August. Refugee athletes have no choices in their life, but IFMA as an IOC-recognised federation has.’
You can follow Mahmud’s muaythai journey on the Facebook page of MTBD.