Egypt’s squash superstar Ali Farag was crowned the Optasia 2022 Squash Champion title at the Wimbledon Club in London on Saturday, 11 March. In his post-victory speech, Farag opted to highlight skewed media coverage and the double standards in mixing politics with sports, an issue now being exposed due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
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“One more thing that I know is going to get me in trouble, but you know we’ve all seen what’s going on in the world at the moment with Ukraine, and nobody is happy about what’s going on,” Farag said.
The Optasia champion continued by acknowledging the sudden inclusion of politics in sports, stating: “We’ve never been allowed to speak about politics in sports but all of a sudden it’s allowed.”
“The Palestinians have been going through that for the past 74 years and, well, I guess because it doesn’t fit the narrative of the of the media of the West, we couldn’t talk about it, but now that we can talk about Ukraine, we can talk about Palestinians. So please keep that in mind,” Farag added, to the applause of a few crowd members.
Farag’s speech comes at a sensitive time as sports institutions are recognizing the Ukrainian struggle. In support of Ukraine, global sports organizations have sanctioned Russia. The likes of FIFA, PSA, and FIBA have taken strict measures to prevent Russia from participating in sports competitions. As a result, Western media coverage on the mixing of sports and politics has increased in a manner never done for the likes of non-Western struggles.
Scottish footballing giants, Celtic Football Club, were fined by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) in 2016 for having its fans fly the Palestinian flag. The cause for the fine was due to a rule by UEFA that forbids “gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly messages that are of a political, ideological, religious, offensive or provocative nature”.
Many non-Western athletes, such as Farag, are beginning to recognize this discrepancy as they call for equal action against any oppression across the world.
Despite suffering an injury setback prior to the match, Farag prevailed 4-11, 11-8, 11-8, 13-11 against Diego Elias in the Optasia Final. His speech was not included in the final cut of the match’s official YouTube highlights, nor was it uploaded as a separate video.