First modification: 07/24/2021 – 20:24
Alaa Maso and Mohamed Maso, two Syrian brothers from Aleppo, are together at these Games, but not as representatives of the same flag. One participates in the jousts with the refugee team, while the other defends the colors of his native nation.
The participation of these brothers shocked viewers at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Alaa Maso and Mohamed Maso, two Syrian brothers, hugged each other tightly in the Tokyo stadium. “I can’t describe how I feel right now,” Mohamed wrote on Instagram.
Both participate in these jousts, but representing different flags. Alaa is a swimmer and is part of the refugee team. Mohamed, for his part, is a triathlete who competes with the Syrian team. They had not seen each other for 8 months due to preparation for the contest.
As the official website of the International Olympic Committee tells it, sport is a family affair in the Maso household. His father was a swimming coach. Alaa began swimming long distances at the age of 4.
“Thanks to sports, I was able to detach myself from many negative things and gain confidence in my personal life during training. Since, the harder I trained, the better I felt. And this is how I try to build my life: be positive, creative and have good health to wait for the sun to rise above us, “he confessed to the IOC.
However, when the war broke out in Syria, his passion was interrupted. I couldn’t train anymore. This is how, in October 2015, he decided to leave the country with his older brother. “The situation was getting more and more complicated and not improving,” he told ‘Olympics.com’.
The team representing the refugees
According to the Dutch website ‘RTL Nieuws’, one of them resides in Hannover, Germany, while the other brother trains from the Netherlands. According to ‘CNN’, Alaa contacted the Syrian national federation to participate in international competitions representing the colors of his country of origin, but did not receive a response.
For this reason, he decided to apply to join the Olympic refugee team, made up of 29 athletes who have had difficulties in their careers. The athletes of this team, unlike the others, benefit from a scholarship and parade behind the Olympic flag.
Of the 29 chosen, nine are from Syria, five from Iran, four from South Sudan, three from Afghanistan and two from Eritrea. The team also includes a refugee from Cameroon, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Sudan and Venezuela.
Athletes compete in twelve sports. Six of the 29 have already participated in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, including Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini. And some managed to stand out, such as Kimia Alizadeh, who left Iranian soil to take refuge in Germany in 2020, and who, in 2016, in Rio, won a bronze medal in taekwondo.
As for Mohamed Maso, he participates in the competition representing his country of origin. A decision with which he has had to face some criticism. “Those who love the ‘regime’ of (Bashar al-Assad) should live it, and not be in Europe,” Omar Abu Layla, founder of the information page ‘Deir Ezzor 24’, reacted on Twitter after the ceremony.
Syria has a total of six athletes in Tokyo, including a young table tennis player, Hend Zara. At 12, she is the youngest participant in these pandemic Olympics.
This article was adapted from its original in French.