KARACHI : Pakistan’s former karatedo Asian Champion and US Open Champion Saadi Abbas’ dream came crashing down as the referee at the Asian Games declared his opponent Jordan’s Bash Al Najjar as the winner just seconds before the -75kg bronze medal fight ended in Jakarta on Monday.
According to Abbas, the referee stopped the match for few seconds, consulted an official who was observing and declared Al Najjar the winner when there were just four seconds left for the fight to end, and he was winning 5-2.
“It was just that close for me to finally win an Asian Games medal,” Abbas told The Express Tribune. “The decision is controversial. I was leading, I was playing despite my knee injury that I picked in the quarter-final against the Malaysian athlete. It is something beyond me that the referee just stopped the fight, and took seconds to come back just to declare Al Najjar as the winner.”
Abbas had to be treated immediately for his knee injury after the event ended; he tore a knee ligament. But that is not what is upsetting him.
“I was dreaming of this moment for 12 years,” said Abbas. “I had prepared a lot, I think I’ve been playing the best I ever had but I twisted my right foot during my quarter-final match and I knew it was bad at the moment, but I sprayed the knee and went back. I just didn’t want to miss this, but who knew that all that pain would lead me nowhere. It is unfair.”
Abbas defeated the Malaysian karateka 10-5, but lost in the semi-final to Saudi Arabia’s Raef Adel Turkistani 4-2 and went on to play for the bronze medal.
“I was in pain, in discomfort, the referees knew it too, they told me that if I limp once they’ll take me out. I was determined not to limp, I didn’t but still this result is shocking, even Al-Najjar seemed surprised with it,” said Abbas.
On the other hand, former South Asian karate champion Kulsoom Hazara also lost in the quarter-final.
Last week, Nargis became the first Pakistani to win a karate medal at the Asian Games, and Abbas believes that it was a breakthrough event for him.
“I saw Nargis take that medal, and I felt I took that medal,” he said. “It was a proud moment for me too. She is an inspiration. I was hoping I could win that medal this time, but, it is not to be, I will need all the prayers from the nation.”
But the Pakistan Karate Federation (PKF) cannot file a complaint, and Abbas is now just holding his heart, hoping to come back soon.
“The doctors have told me that the ligament isn’t broken but torn, now I will be getting a lot of injections, if it had broken then there would’ve been a surgery,” said Abbas.
The PKF secretary Andleeb Sandhu said that everyone agrees that it is a controversial decision and Abbas was wronged but the World karate Federation does not have any space for protests to be lodged.
“We all saw it, it was shocking, and Abbas is badly hurt in the foot,” said Andleeb. “But at this time we can’t do much, there is no place for us to register a protest.”