Boxing, banned in Libya in 1976, is now springing
up in numerous sports halls across Libya, since the fall of Qadhafi. Never practiced,
except in secret, and never shown on TV, Libya will now attempt to join the realms of modern
day boxing. With their fighting spirit and a new boxing committee recently formed they
are certainly on the right track. Omar, a championship winner in the late 70s
in various countries and now a Tripoli barber has started teaching boxing in this the same
gym he used to train in over 3 decades ago. He describes how he felt the day he knew Libya
had changed forever, and that his beloved sport could return.
“Like someone who was drowning and you save them, this is what I would like to say, I
drowned, but the revolution of February 17th, it rescued me.”
The former dictator Qadhafi, labeled the sport as barbaric and violent, ordering it to be
banished. In an effort to take the violence out of it, Omar tried a different approach.
“Boxing as a sport is dangerous
so I took out the punches to the face, and instead replaced them by taps to areas of
the body.” Even trying to keep the skill of boxing but
without the violence, did not go down well. “The dictator was going to close this sports
hall because we had practiced touch boxing; he said that we were trying to bring boxing
back again.” Libya banned all full contact sports. Fast-forward
the better part of three decades, and in this one leisure facility, it is as though the
sports never left. Mohammad Hussein, a Tunisian Kick boxer and
all round fitness instructor, today leads a class in Kick Boxing.
“I teach them martial arts, I teach them self-defense and to make their bodies fit,
with a balanced brain.” “Hopefully there will be championships;
our problem is just to form an organization. Once we form it we already have champions
to participate at competitions.” Abdul and Ahmed are two young brothers who
have taken a very keen interest in the sport. “Because, to defend ourselves, kicking is
fun. / But, our father, ok, he wants us to protect ourselves, like if someone is going
to … I don’t know who,… someone’s going to attack me, he wants us to know how
to fight. / Yeah, like if he’s going to hit, you know how to defend yourself and give
it back to them. / Yes, so you can beat him.” It’s difficult for the young brothers to understand
that only a short while ago they were not allowed to kick box, but now they’re getting
so much enjoyment out of it, they would miss it if they couldn’t do it.
‘But if I go to you, right you are never allowed to do this again would you be upset
or would you be …’ “Yeah I’d be upset, because its fun. / Yes
it is too much fun. It’s all kicking and fighting and hitting with hands.”
‘You just want to hit people!’ “I don’t want to; I just want to defend
myself.” ‘And you do you just want to hit people
or do you want to be able to defend yourself?’ “I get angry very easily. / So yeah.”
Sounds like young Ahmed there uses the sport to let off a little steam.
It is certainly going to take fresh thinking and outside help to bring Libya up to date
with boxing and other contact sports again. “I hope that we can have meetings, gather
all the different international sports people to share ideas and thoughts. We may be lacking
ideas on this technical board, which was recently formed, so we will benefit from others experience.”
For men like Omar, the thoughts of what if, will haunt him forever and he will never know
the true potential of what he might have achieved. It is now down to the next generation, which
these men are now able to train, to take this sport into the future for Libya. These young
boys won’t even remember the time when the sport they enjoy and love, was banned in their
country. This is the NATO Channel, reporting from Tripoli.