Masomah Alizada, the art of rebirth through sport
On July 26, 2024, during the opening ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympics, one delegate will stand out from the rest: the Olympic refugee team will attend for the third time in its history, after Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and Tokyo in 2020. Incredibly, these selected athletes have come to challenge the most famous athletes in the world.
When sports change lives
The only refugee in France who has participated in the Tokyo Olympics, Masomah Alizada hopes to be invited again to the grand celebrations of the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Seen through a report produced in 2015 and broadcast on Arte – Afghanistan. The little queen of Kabul –, the young woman caught the attention of lawyer Patrick Communal and her son Thierry, who decided to help her obtain refugee status in France. “Our first real meeting with him was a moment of magic”, recalls Thierry Communal, who has since become his trainer.
Together, they start a crazy project: participate in the Tokyo Olympics. ” To At that time, the French National Sports and Olympic Committee had not heard of this refugee delegation.” remember the coach. But from phone call to phone call, Thierry Communal eventually joined the French cycling governing body, then the French Olympic body, and finally, through journalists from the sports daily. Team, the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Masomah’s file was sent, and the young woman was awarded a scholarship. From these obstacles, Thierry Communal will only keep the positives: “I’ve been a believer since I was a child, but if not, I’ll be a believer! », he laughed.
“Until the end, my participation was not recorded. The final selection of refugees joining the Tokyo delegation is set for June, a month before the start of the competition. For 2024, it will be the same ”. said Masomah Alizada, who participated in the Olympics “always a dream”. “With the situation in my country, I see no way this is happening. But with Tokyo, I understand that all dreams, even the wildest ones, are possible for someone like me.” he is still enjoying today.
Since this crazy adventure, Thierry Communal has reassured him: several refugees have contacted him, often through Masomah, for a scholarship to the Paris Games.
The Tokyo experience
This delegation, with various nationalities, caught the attention of sports fans. “In 2020, we felt the kind eyes of the fans, often with lots of questions, recalled Thierry Communal. Some asked us which countries the athletes represented. They were answered: “Nothing and everything at the same time.” »
The Spanish delegation fell in love with Masomah. “I remember after his race, where he finished last, the journalists cornered him in the mixed zone”, coach trail. “He must have spent more time there than some medalists! »
After Tokyo, the cyclists take a break. Overwhelmed between studies and sports, he also has anxiety about his sister’s extradition from Afghanistan in August 2021, when the Taliban regain power. “What everyone sees on TV, we experience it firsthand, notes Thierry Communal. After all that, he needed some time off. Very quickly though, he was back on cycling, with a clear desire to be present in Paris in 2024. Something had to propel him, and the current situation in his home country. »
Masomah was also honored at the Sportel Awards in Monaco, a ceremony that honors the most beautiful sporting image of the year. Together with the team of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR), he took to the stage to collect the prize, which is awarded to a well-known documentary film. Journeytribute to all refugee athletes. “Faced with the public acclamation and reception provided for this film, I can see how the plight of refugees, through sport, can be both awe-inspiring and awe-inspiring”, stress athletes.
Enough to relaunch its ambitions for the 2024 Olympics, in the host country. “There are still stories to be told around refugees and Masomah is more aware than ever that her voice matters, at a time when Afghanistan is descending into terror”, believes Thierry Communal.
For athletes, the result is still secondary: “I’ll do my best to do well, but it won’t be easy…” “In Afghanistan, he never rode his bike alone, reminded the coach. Once, when I was running with him, he surprised himself by telling me he felt confident. That never happened to him in his country. »
Behind the sporting achievements, the message
Everything that happened to him, he owed the bike. His participation in the Olympics held in France will be a great symbol. “Generally, I feel a lot of support in France, the athlete rejoiced. Some commented to me about the fact that I wear the hijab. I told them it was my own choice. If in Afghanistan men force women to wear the headscarf, in France they cannot be forced not to wear it. »
For cyclists, the presence of an Olympic refugee delegation is “required”.“When we look at the current situation in Afghanistan, and even in other countries, one can wonder whether there will be athletes from these countries at the next Olympics. make Masomah Alizada worry. The refugee team provides visibility into the realities of the world. »
“This initiative (formation of refugee delegation) will send a message of hope to all refugees on this planet and make the world more aware of the magnitude of this crisis.” anticipated in 2016 Thomas Bach, President of the IOC, when the first refugee delegation set foot on Brazilian soil, with a view to the Rio Olympics. “This is also a signal to the international community that refugees are human beings and an enrichment to society. »
“Masomah is an Afghan Muslim. I am a French Christian. But without each other, we are nothing, concluded Thierry Communal. This is the message that the refugee Olympic team should spread. »
More than 50 refugees are training for 2024
In 2016, during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, ten athletes were selected to be part of the refugee Olympic delegation. Four years later, in Tokyo, they are 29 years old.
Olympic flag and anthem used to represent the athletes of the Refugee Olympic Team.
Today, 52 athletes are refugees, from 18 countries, benefit from scholarships and training in hopes of being selected for the Paris Olympics. A figure that is expected to continue to rise in the coming months.