Israel Misha Zilberman carrying on despite visa issues

Vastavam web: Israel is not normally associated with badminton but Misha Zilberman has kept the flag fluttering for his country by competing in the last two successive Olympic Games. The 30-year-old is a regular in the international circuit but visa restriction in Arab nations has affected his career over the years. In 2015, Misha was initially not granted visa by Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim country — and he was on the verge of missing the World Championship.

Not playing in Indonesia and Malaysia, which hosts as many as four BWF World Tour events, has robbed him a chance to gather ranking points, hampering his progress. “I can’t play in some countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. They block me. In 2015, Indonesia didn’t give me visa and it is the same now. I think sports should be higher than politics. There will always be such problems but I keep going where I can,” Misha, who competed at the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympics, said.

“For example after India Open, I will go to Singapore straight away. I can’t play Malaysia and like this I miss many tournaments. I spoke to BWF, they are trying to help me. They do what they can but it is not easy, said Misha. Israel does not have formal diplomatic relations with many Muslim-majority countries, such as Indonesia. Misha, who trains in Singapore and Russia, primarily plays men’s singles but also pairs up with his mother-cum-coach Svetlana as a mixed doubles pair in few tournaments.

“We play mixed doubles for fun, the main focus is to warm up for my singles,” said Misha, with his sexagenarian mother standing by his side after the duo lost the opening mixed doubles match against top seed Chinese combination of Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping. “We don’t plan to play mixed doubles too much, as long as I play singles, we will sometimes play. Next we are playing European Games,” Misha, who had served in the Israel Defense Forces from August 2007 to August 2010, added.