An Israeli won the gold medal in the Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam competition on Thursday, but the United Arab Emirates (UAE) refused to play Israel’s national anthem. The Israeli decided to sing it himself instead.
Tal Flicker, 25, won the under-66 kilogram Judo gold and came to the top podium underneath the International Judo Federation (IJF) flag, as the UAE doesn’t allow the Israeli flag to be publicly displayed. The IJF also blared their own anthem.
Flicker sang the Israeli anthem to himself anyway:
Flicker later told Channel 2, “The anthem that they played of the world federation was just background noise.”
He expressed pride in his country.
“The whole world knows that we’re from Israel, knows who we represent,” Flicker said. “The fact that they hid our flag, it’s just a patch on our flag.”
Additionally, Israeli Gili Cohen won the bronze medal in the women’s judo competition in the tournament. The IJF unfurled their own flag instead of the Israeli flag.
Israeli symbols of any kind are banned in the UAE, so Flicker, Cohen and other Israelis competing in the tournament had to compete as members of the IJF instead of as members of Israel.
There have been other instances of Israelis facing disparaging treatment at sporting events. In 2016, an Israeli Judoka defeated an Egyptian Judoka in the Rio Olympics, but the Egyptian refused to shake the Israeli’s hand. Participants from Lebanon also wouldn’t let Israelis onto a bus they were slated to ride together. In 2013, the Tunisian tennis federation forbade its star athlete from squaring off against an Israeli opponent.