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Tokyo Olympics 2020: Punches to camera, a toilet break, and a sit-in protest — how Mourad Aliev lost the plot

·4 min read

First, Mourad Aliev lost his bout. Then, he lost the plot.

On Sunday, the French boxer went on a remarkable sit-in protest at the Kokugikan Arena, after being disqualified for injuring his opponent with his head. Great Britain's Frazer Clarke made it to the semi-final of the super heavyweight weight class after the referee, Andy Mustacchio, disqualified his opponent with four seconds left in the second round.

Initially, Aliev could not believe that he had been disqualified, shouting "I won, I won" while looking into the empty stands and gesticulating wildly. 32 portraits of sumo wrestlers hanging by the ceiling of the Ryogoku Kokugikan, which is a sumo wrestling arena when the Olympics are not in town, stared back.

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Aliev then threw light jabs at a camera focussing on him before spitting his mouth guard out and trying to rugby-kick it into the stands.

So incensed was Aliev that even his opponent, Clarke, who was bleeding near both of his eyelids, tried to reason with him and tell him to calm down. But to no avail.

It must be pointed out that there was no clear evidence of headbutting against the Frenchman even though there was a lot of coming together of the heads in the clumsy fight. Aliev was leading on the cards of three judges in the first round.

Aliev, who became a French citizen only in 2017, alleged that he was never warned about using his head before being disqualified. His protest brought back memories of the Seoul 1988 Olympics, where South Korean boxer Byun Jung-il had similarly refused to leave the ring after being penalised.

On Sunday, while Clarke held a jubilant interview ring side, Aliev decided that he was going to hold a protest against the decision. He sat down on the edge of the boxing ring, his knees brought to chin level and his arms resting on them. He alternated between glowering into the stands at the press section and staring off into the distance, subconsciously caressing his beard and wiping off the sweat off his brow, unmindful of the whirlwind of activity around him.

"I sat down to protest against the unfairness for me," he told journalists in the mixed zone after he finally ended his protest. "I prepared for these Games for four years€¦ I really wanted to fight against the injustice, so that was my way to show that I don't agree with that decision."

His coaches initially tried to reason with him, with one of them appearing to make frantic phone calls.

At one point during his sit-in protest, screens inside the Kokugikan Arena showed his opponent, Clarke, leaving the arena, and stopping at a vending machine inside the stadium premises for refreshments.

Soon after, Aliev walked off too, and his coaches and other members of the French contingent tried to reason with the organisers.

Journalists speculated that the boxer had gone for a toilet break. But soon, he returned to his spot and restarted his sit-in protest as no consensus could be reached between the French entourage and the boxing officials.

"The judges went to discuss what happened. They said that I would have won, however it was already written that I was disqualified so the decision cannot be unmade. It was already too late. So, I went with them to hear the discussion, however it was already too late to change the outcome of the match," he claimed.

So, he made his way back to his spot for another round of his sit-in protest.

As he returned for the second sit-in, four nervy Japanese security officials, massively undersized when compared to the intimidatingly built Aliev, stood at a respectful distance, eyeing him. Four members of the French contingent stood next to the boxer.

Eventually, after nearly an hour of drama, it dawned upon the aggrieved boxer that protesting was getting him nowhere, after which he got up and left, but not before he held a testy press conference decrying Olympic values and offering conspiracy theories.

His final act before walking away was shutting down a question about his bad behaviour. "This is not school," he said.

Also See: Tokyo Olympics 2020: How Mary Kom learnt that she has been eliminated from Games

Tokyo Olympics 2020: Clutter-free approach helps Lovlina Borgohain punch ticket to semis, takes aim at gold

Tokyo Olympics 2020: 'Proud of her', 'Go for gold', Twitter salutes Lovlina Borgohain as boxer assures medal

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