The Israeli city of Haifa will host two major continental SAMBO tournaments from April 19 to 23. Men and women, juniors, youth, as well as cadets will compete for the title of the strongest SAMBO athletes in Europe. Competitors from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Israel, Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Moldova, the Netherlands, Romania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Russia, and Belarus will start sparring on the Carmel mountains this Wednesday.
Sambo, a martial art that originated in the Soviet Union, is an internationally practiced combat sport, and a recognized style of amateur wrestling included by UWW in the World Wrestling Championships alongside Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling. The word sambo is an acronym for samozashchita bez oruzhiya, meaning self-defense without weapons. It was developed in the early 1920s by the Soviet precursor of the KGB, the NKVD, and the Red Army, to improve the hand-to-hand combat abilities of their servicemen.
The Haifa competitions already experienced their first scandal: on January 25, 2023, the International Olympic Committee Executive Board permitted inviting athletes from Russia and Belarus to international sports tournaments but only provided these athletes not be “actively supporting” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and only if they do not compete under the flags of Russia or Belarus, which were banned from all international team events.
Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov said the decision was “absolutely unacceptable,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the decision discriminatory.
The Fédération Internationale de Sambo (FIAS) said in a statement on Thursday: “An important feature of the European Championships this year will be that it is a qualifying tournament for the participation of sambists in the World Martial Arts Games, which will be held in October in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.”
“Sambists from several weight categories will fight for the title of European champions and a coveted ticket to the Multisport Games. Medals and the right to perform in Saudi Arabia will be played not only in traditional weight categories. For the first time at the European Championships, a tournament in Combat SAMBO among women (up to 65 kg) will be held, men, in turn, will measure their strength in the absolute weight category (over 88 kg) in Sport SAMBO,” said FIAS President Vasily Shestakov, who happens to be a Russian citizen.