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Tajik Sambo Wrestlers Receive Visas For World Championship In South Korea

Sambo wrestling was developed as a martial art in the Soviet Union beginning in the 1920s.

DUSHANBE -- Tajikistan's Sambo Wrestling Federation says that after weeks of uncertainty, South Korea has issued entry visas to its athletes in order to compete in the world championships later this month.

On October 16, the federation said South Korea had refused to issue visas to the athletes because several Tajik wrestlers who took part in a 2016 tournament hosted by South Korea never returned to Tajikistan and stayed in South Korea illegally.

Nosir Bozorov, the head coach of the Tajik national team, told RFE/RL on October 31 that the Tajik Foreign Ministry and the State Committee for Youth, Sports, and Tourism were involved in resolving the issue. He refused to provide further details about their involvement.

But a source close to the government told RFE/RL that South Korea agreed to issue visas to nine Tajik sambo wrestlers and their coach after senior officials in Tajikistan guaranteed all the athletes and the coach would return home after the world championship ends.

The tournament is scheduled for November 8-10 in the South Korean city of Chenogju.

Sambo -- a Russian acronym that stands for "self-defense without weapons" -- was developed as a martial art in the Soviet Union beginning in the 1920s.

Its main founder, Vasily Oshchepkov, died in a prison he'd been sent to during Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's purge campaign in the 1930s. He had been accused of being a Japanese spy.

Many Tajiks have been trying to enter South Korea in recent years in order to be employed as migrant workers.