The seven Sudanese grapplers making a dangerous, 1740 mile-long road trip across Africa to their first BJJ tournament in Kenya has reached their destination safely…and with a few hours to spare. It only took six days, the van breaking down, and getting lost in the Ethiopian mountains on almost no sleep to do it.
For a while, according to updates posted to reddit, it looked like the van might not make it in time, but then the fighters sent this update from the Kenyan border yesterday:
A contact was able to verify that, though they missed the rules and regulations meeting, the whole team arrived in time to roll in the Nairobi Open starting at 10am today.
ICYMI, the athletes train under coach Mohammed Al-Munir, a purple belt who teaches at the Muqatel Training Center in Sudan. The area has been experiencing tremendous unrest in the wast of a military takeover of the government following the ousting of former President Omar al-Bashir. Protests and violent clashes with the military are common in Sudan, making activities as simple as getting to practice potentially deadly.
Several of Al-Munir’s athletes have been seriously affected by their home nation’s difficulties, with some being tortured by military police and others left orphaned by violence. According to details shared by The Lionheart Initiative, a fundraising group helping support the grapplers, the athletes sometimes set up mats outside rallies and grapple in silent protest, giving people a safer outlet for their aggression and frustration.
Remember this story next time you’re complaining about that NAGA that’s only two hours away by well-paved, well-lit, well maintained highway away being “too far.”
To help support these athletes and others like them, folks can visit MMA for Africa to make a donation or plan a fundraiser.