Algeria to face sanctions for no-show against Israel in Rio paralympics’ goalball

Algeria’s women’s goalball team failed to appear for a match against Israel in the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on Friday, showing that some habits never change.

Like in the Olympics or other international competitions, when a representative of an Arab country that has no diplomatic relations with Israel is scheduled to play against a blue-and-white rival, he doesn’t show up.

Goalball involves blind and visually impaired players playing with the aid of a bell inside the ball they are trying to get into their opponent’s goal. The crowd in the hall has to remain completely silent to allow the game to proceed properly. Israel sent a goalball team to the Paralympics for the first time this year. Ilham Mahamid, a native of Umm al-Fahm and a BA student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in education and theater, is the team’s captain.

Israel drew its first game with Japan, 1-1, with Mahamid scoring Israel’s goal.

The International Paralympic Committee said the Algerian team’s absence could be a form of political protest, which is banned in the Paralympics (as it is in the Olympics). IPC spokesman Craig Spence says Algerian officials “claim they suffered multiple delays, canceled flights and missed connections” attempting to board a flight September 5 from Warsaw, Poland, to Rio de Janeiro.

Spence said the rest of the Algerian delegation was in Rio. Algerian officials told the IPC that the goalball team would arrive today.

Spence said sanctions could range from a “slap on the wrist” to the team being “removed from the competition.” Algeria’s no-show means a technical victory for Israel. Besides the complex political reality, it’s sad to think about the women on the Algerian team who prepared for years for one of the biggest events in their lives and were forced to give up on it because of the random draw that set up a match with Israel.

“The moment the national squad entered the stadium with its country’s flag, it is obliged to appear against every country,” said Dani Ben Abu, the chairman of Israel’s Paralympic committee. “It has no right to decide who to compete against. It’s a basic law of sport. It’s a real shame that politics infiltrated handicapped sports, too.”