Asylum Seeker Coaches England Boxing Gold

Andy Newman

One of the most powerful aspects of sport is the way it transcends national and racial boundaries. Although international sporting events can be linked with chauvinism and nationalism, there is also the other side of it: that emphasises the degree of similarity between our cultures and enthusiasms.

For example, there is huge affection in Britain for the Brazilian football team, which represents the world’ largest black nation, and what a lasting impact Korea’s football fever in 2002 left on our perceptions of that country.

Closer to home, Swindon light welter-weight boxer, Jamie Cox, recently won a gold medal in the Melbourne Commonwealth games, and he was coached by Islan Eltuyev, an asylum seeker from Chechnya (seen together with Cox in the picture), who has been refused permission to stay by the Home Office and is fighting deportation. Bizarrely, the British Government claim that Chechnya is completely safe.

Defying all stereotypes of what you expect of a refugee, Islan won two titles as Russian amateur boxing champion, and he has thrown himself into coaching at Swindon’s Walcot Boxing Club. Ironically, because the government will not allow asylum seekers to work, Islan was able to devote himself full time to coaching the young hopeful, Jamie Cox.

The Eltuyev family are deeply rooted in Swindon. Their seven year old son, Said, is a pupil at Ferndale school, and plays for Ferndale Rodbourne Youth Football Club. Islan’s wife Zarina gave birth to a baby daughter, Angelina, just six months ago.

Although the national newspapers. Like the Mail and the Express, whip up hysteria about asylum seekers, local newspapers are often closer to the human stories and supportive of the families. As the Swindon Advertiser reported: “Jamie Cox, who trains at Walcot Boxing Club, said: "Islan has a lot of international experience. He was number one in Russia, which along with Cuba is the top country in the world for amateur boxing. He should be allowed to stay in the country." Jamie's mum, Belinda Russen, 38, of Middleleaze, has observed the progress Jamie has made since Islan became involved in her son's training. She said: "Jamie's come on leaps and bounds since working with Islan. I definitely think he should be allowed to stay. Harry Scott, head coach at Walcot Boxing Club, said: "Jamie needed one-to-one coaching at the time and I asked Islan to work with him. He would be a good citizen in Swindon."”

Through this sporting achievement Islan Eltuyev has been able to demonstrate that he is a man not a statistic. He is a member of our community, not an outsider. We want him to stay. Yet his family still wait for the day when Home Office jobs-worths knock on their door, and send them back to the killing fields of Chechnya. Islan and Zarina are obviously telling the truth when they say that Moslems like them are in danger from Russian death squads in their home country

I can do no better than repeat the words of Swindon Advertiser (Adver) columnist, Dave Andrew: “Wouldn’t it be great when the day comes and the enforcement officers appear, instead of confronting one frightened family, they had to deal with a crowd of boxers, boxers’ mums, members of parliament, mayors and Adver readers and writers? What an opportunity to show that Swindon is a town that really cares”.

Picture credit:




April 2006

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