Three years ago, Saeid Fazloula fled from Iran to Germany. Now, the refugee is competing in the Canoeing World Championship and he's determined to win a gold medal for Germany.
Saeid Fazloula has gotten used to many things in Germany. Playing cards with his teammates from the canoeing national team has become part of his daily routine, just like spending countless hours paddling along the German river Rhine. It’s just the weather that he cannot cope with. "There are times when it rains for days. I didn’t know that before," Fazloula explains.
The Iranian national fled in 2015 from Iran to Germany and has found a new home in the southern German city of Karlsruhe. This weekend, he is competing in the Canoe Sprint World Championship in Montemor, Portugal – on the German ticket.
"I am happy to compete for the German team. It has not been easy for me," Fazloula says. The world championship will not be the first time he competes for Germany. In July, he participated in the European championship representing the German Canoeing Association (DKV). Taking part in the world championship, however, is a dream come true for him. Fazloula is lined up for the 500 meter race together with co-canoeist Kostja Stroinsk.
Fazloula was one of the top canoeists in Iran. After winning the silver medal at the Asian championships in 2014 in South Korea, he was told that he had cheered in an "unreasonable" manner. After visiting the Milano cathedral during the World Championships in 2015 as a tourist, he was accused of wanting to convert to Christianity and was sent to prison for a short time. That’s when Fazloula decided it was time to take off and leave.
He left Iran, first by foot across the border to Turkey, and then he continued along the Balkan route, all the way to Karlsruhe. "It was really hard in the beginning. In Iran, I had everything. In Germany, I had nothing. No money, no apartment, no car. I was living in a small room with five, six people and that was hard for me," Fazloula said in an interview with the German news broadcaster ARD.
A new home in sports
"I was about to give up. I thought: Saeid, you have lost everything." But then he found the canoeing association in Karlsruhe, the "Rheinbrüder." That’s where he found new friends, and the sport made him feel like he had found a new home as well. He trained hard to become a member of the German national team. "He is a good guy. It’s not an easy situation if you leave your family behind. But he has found new support in our canoeing family," says Olympic athlete Max Hoff.
There was, however, a setback for Fazloula. In 2016 he was set compete in the Refugee Olympic Team in 2016 in Rio – but was rejected in last instance by the Internaitonal Olympic Committee. "That was tough, but I kept going and going, that’s how I am," he said according to the Sports Information Service SID.
His next big goal? "I am dreaming of competing in the Olympic Games in Tokio in 2020," he says. "I am training for that every minute."
InfoMigrants with Sports Information Service SED