Recently the Embassy of Japan in Lebanon was pleased to announce that on 29th April the Government of Japan decided to award 'The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays' to Mr. Francois Saade, President of the Lebanese Judo Federation, for his outstanding contribution to promoting Judo in Lebanon and strengthening friendly relations between Japan and Lebanon over many years.
Mr. Saade said: “It is an honour for me to receive such a decoration, an honour for Judo, for Lebanon of course, but I also add an honour for The Lebanese Federation, for all the members of the Executive Committee, for all the clubs and for all Judokas.“
IJF President, Mr Marius L. Vizer congratulated Mr. Saade immediately, “I would like to congratulate you for receiving the Order of the Rising Sun. This moment stands as recognition for your activity and endeavors put to the service of judo and sport in general and it is also a reflection of your contribution to the development of judo in your country and region. The International Judo Federation is proud of your achievements.“
In 1980, President Saade was appointed chairman of the judo committee of a federation that then included other martial arts. He was in charge of judo until 1994, when the sport became independent. In 1998, he was elected President of the Arab Judo Federation and in 2010 became a member of the Lebanese Olympic Committee, which he is the vice president of now.
“More recently I became an executive board member of the Judo Union of Asia and I was recognised by President Vizer for my contribution to the development of judo in the world. Today judo is growing in my country. We have 25 affiliated clubs spread over the whole territory and more than 1,500 officially registered judoka, without counting all those who practise at school and at the University”, explains President Saade.
Lebanese athletes regularly participate in international events. For instance, since 1980, 12 athletes took part in the Olympic Games.
With the support of the IJF Nacif Elias was able to reach the gold medal during the ‘Jeux de la francophonie’ (French Speaking countries Games). He finished second at the Asian championships, 7th at the world level in 2014 and won several competitions in the Pan American region before winning the bronze medal during the IJF Grand Prix in Mexico.
During the Olympic Games in Barcelona, Fady Saikaly finsihed in an honorable 9th place, when Roudy Hachach also finished 9th in Beijing and 3rd during the Asian Games in Jeju, Korea. The young Karen Chammas finished 7th during the first edition of the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore and 2nd at the Junior Asian championships. Damien Ziade, John Ghazal and Joseph Bou Rached were all bronze medallists at the Mediterranean Games. Last but not least, Aquilina Chayeb won the Cadet European Cup in Greece in 2019 and is ranked in the top 10 of her weight division.
Mr. Saade can be proud of all those results, but he can also be proud of what his federation has organised over the past years, “We have organised 3 times the Cadets and Juniors Asian Championships, with the support of the Asian President, M. Obaid Al Anzi. Yearly, we organise the small arab countries championships and twice already we held the Meditarranean Championships as well as the French speaking countries Championships in 2009. A little longer ago, we held the Pan-Arab Games. That was in 1997.“
On the national level, the federation is very active and focuses on the development of judo at the regional level, by regularly inviting delegations from neighboring countries in order to help them developing their level of practice. “Since many refugees from Syria have been arriving in Lebanon over the past years, we offer them support and include them in our school programmes. Every year we have school events that gather together more than 650 children, boys and girls, including refugees“, adds President Saade.
The judo in Schools programme is an important part of the development strategy of the federation. For almost two years, judo lessons have been offered for all children registered in the schools of the Municipality of Jounieh and the increase in numbers is already significant.
The IJF has been supporting the development of judo in the region for a long time. Recently tatami and judogi were offered for the small ones by the organisation, which also sends experts on a regular basis to Lebanon.
“With the IJF and strong partners such as the Japanese Embassy, which has been supporting us since 1980, we are able to achieve a lot. We can also count on 4 international referees, 8 continental and many still operating at the national level”, said President Saade, before concluding, “Based on our values, our goals are unlimited. Since I have been leading the destiny of judo in Lebanon, I have done everything possible to make our sport grow here and in the region. I have always felt the support of the IJF and its President and I’m dreaming of seeing more of my athletes reaching the top level, while we will continue to focus on the education as well.“
In this troubled period of Covid-19, the joy of having been named for this award by the Japanese authorities did not stifle François Saade from adding a short comment, “With this global pandemic, we can’t expose anyone and we have decided for the moment to postpone all our competition until the situation is safe for everyone. We will come back stronger and more united than ever.“
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