Recent weeks have brought happy tidings for Aram Mahmoud, the Syria-born player who made history as the first badminton player to be part of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team at Tokyo 2020.
In his seventh year of staying in the Netherlands, Mahmoud was finally conferred Dutch citizenship last month, marking a huge moment in his personal and professional life. His family – his parents and siblings – joined him in the Netherlands last month, and will be eligible for Dutch citizenship after five years. Further good news arrived with the IOC announcing that Mahmoud was among 44 athletes who have been awarded Olympic Scholarships for Refugee Athletes through its Olympic Solidarity programme. As a Dutch citizen now, Mahmoud will no longer be eligible for the IOC Refugee Olympic Team; however, he will receive a transition scholarship to support his training and bid to qualify for Paris 2024.
Expressing his gratitude for the support, Mahmoud recalled his participation at Tokyo 2020: “I was very happy to get the scholarship (for Tokyo), which was amazing,” he said. “The moment I heard that I was selected to go to Tokyo was one of the biggest and best moments in my life. The journey during the Olympics and staying at the Olympic Village was a really big, big experience for me. I was very grateful to receive all the kind messages from all the people around the world who supported me. I really want to thank all the people and especially the IOC who supported us and gave us the opportunity.”
Developments on the personal front too have pleased Mahmoud, with the citizenship now assuring him of a home base.
“I’m in the Netherlands for seven years now,” a happy Mahmoud said. “It (citizenship) gives me more stability to stay in the Netherlands and be a Dutch citizen. I’m still Syrian, and also a Dutch person. It means a lot, I’ve got used to living here and it’s given me a lot of stability in my life.”
Mahmoud, who was formerly with the Dutch club Almere, has been playing with German club Lüdinghausen for the last two years. He is thrilled with his family joining him, after years of being separated from them.
“It was amazing news to get after the Tokyo Olympics. I received a call from the government that my family were allowed to come stay with me. It gives them a new chance, especially for my younger brother and my younger sister, to build up their future again and try their best to achieve their goals here in the Netherlands. I will support them and I will be happy for them if they reach their goals.
“I used to call them every day when they were in Syria. They know I’m very busy with tournaments and I’m frequently in a different country. They’re used to it but because they are here now they want to see me more, so it will be a bit difficult in the beginning but they will get used to it.”
While chasing his Olympic dreams, Mahmoud is also pursuing his academic goals. He is studying Economics and Sports Marketing at the Johan Cruyff Institute in Amsterdam, and has three years left to complete his course.