Shuttler blames visa delay for early exit from World C'ships
AN ISRAELI who was granted a visa only at the 11th hour to compete in badminton's World Championships in Indonesia blamed the immigration saga for his early departure from the tournament yesterday.
Misha Zilberman, who represented Israel at the London 2012 Olympics, was defeated by Taiwan's Hsu Jen-hao 21-14, 21-14 in his opening-round match in Jakarta, ending his campaign.
The 26-year-old shuttler had initially been refused permission to enter Indonesia and was stuck in Singapore, a short flight from Jakarta, in the run-up to the tournament.
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, and the Jewish state do not have formal diplomatic ties and it is difficult for Israelis to visit the South-east Asian nation.
He was granted a visa at the last minute, after the Badminton World Federation intervened.
The federation's secretary-general, Thomas Lund, travelled to Singapore to assist with the case.
The Israeli player did not speak to the media following his first-round loss, with the federation citing security concerns for his absence.
But in an interview with the federation, he blamed the fracas over his visa for his poor showing, saying the whole experience had not been easy after a year of careful preparation for the championships.
"I am very disappointed that I didn't show even 50 per cent of what I could because I didn't practise for the last five days or hit any shuttles," he said.
"I thought I could play better... more close to him. I would have needed three or four days to come and feel everything."
Despite the outcome, Zilberman said he had been happy to compete in Jakarta, saying it was proof that "sport is more important than politics".