Judo and Football: 300 at Lignano training camp and how many champions …

A week at Bella Italia Village with the top world judo champions: training and moments of leisure including a special football match

Three hundred athletes from seventeen nations gathered in Lignano Sabbiadoro for a training camp organized by Fijlkam which recorded the participation of many champions. At the Bella Italia Village there are numerous blues, including Basile, Lombardo, Parlato and the two Esposito brothers. But also the top of Belgium, Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Portugal, Switzerland, Canada, Finland, Serbia, Ukraine, Great Britain, Malta, Cyprus, Austria. With them representing Brazil and Japan also Felipe Kitadai, Olympic bronze medalist in London at the expense of our Elio Verde and today at the helm of Austria juniors, and Junpei Igarashi.

Many, many ‘randori’ (fights) of high quality, but also many moments of sharing: getting together and being together was precisely the main intent of this camp which also saw the best international coaches take off the judogi for a day to put on instead the shoes. Not a tournament, but a straight match which, in Lignano, was the second in a series that began with the Nymburg training camp in March. Never before have so many Olympic and World medals been seen on a football field and some have turned out to be a real phenomenon …


This time it ended two to zero for the team led by Raffaele Toniolo with a brace from the English Colin Oates. In the blue coach’s team played Danny Kingston (Gbr), Felipe Kitadai (Bra), Rok Draksic (Slo), Antoine Valois-Fortier (Can), Quedjau Nhabali (Ukr), Robert Krawczyk (Pol). In the team captained by coach Salvatore Ferro played Alexei Budolin, Olympic bronze in Sydney and today coach of Switzerland, Sven Maresch (Ger), the English Johnson, the Belgian coach Cedric Taymans, the Romanian Aurelian Fleisz, coach of Malta, and then Carlsson, Roza and the physiotherapist from Switzerland. But from the comments of the judoka, who were footballers for a day, the best player on the pitch seems to have been the Ukrainian Quedjau Nhabali, nicely defined by all as “better than Donnarumma”. “The opposing team had the advantage of a stratospheric goalkeeper – commented Salvatore Ferro – the goal was inviolable”.


Junior world champion in 2009, after a great career as an athlete with numerous medals in the Ijf tour, including the last silver at the Grand Slam in Dusseldorf in 2020, Quedjau Nhabali is now the coach of Ukraine: “He is not It is easy to find myself today in the suit of a technician – he said -, especially if I think back to the gold medal that I was chasing at Rio 2016 and that I did not reach. In my heart and mind I still feel like an athlete, but now it’s time for new challenges. Today we have really strong guys and I hope we will be able to get good results, more than what we have achieved so far. We are aiming for the Paris Olympics and we want to be ready when the time comes ”. Nhabali took over the post of coach after the Tokyo Olympics and finding himself leading a national team in a period as difficult as the one his country is experiencing is not something for everyone. But great support also came from Fijlkam, which opened the doors of the Ostia Olympic Center to the Ukrainian team in March: “There is a lot of sincere gratitude for the Italian federation that has supported us since the first day of the war. Half of the team was at the traininig camp in Ostia and the other half was still in Ukraine, the situation was very difficult. Our government prepared a list for the teams that could leave the country, a unique initiative, designed especially for sportsmen. The invitation from Italy to Ostia allowed us to leave, it was a fantastic experience and we are truly grateful for the help received. After Ostia, the Hungarian Federation also helped us, so we managed to achieve good results at the European Championships, one gold and two fifth places. We are not yet at the top, but we are in the European elite and I believe that, although our thoughts are constantly turned to our families who are still in Ukraine, we are giving our all to continue our work and achieve great goals ”.



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