The Ministry of Foreign affairs issued a statement late on Tuesday announcing that Egyptian Sumo player Abdelrahman Shaalan was honoured during the opening event of the Arabic-Japanese friendship week.
Egyptian ambassador in Japan Hesham El-Zemeity stated that Shaalan is the first Arab to be honoured during such an event, adding that according to tradition, only Japanese figures with good relations with the Arab world are honoured on this occasion.
“The Arab Ambassadors Council found it necessary to honour Shaalan, who has shown exceptional performance and persistence to compete in the elite division of the most popular sport in Japan,” said El-Zemeity.
The opening celebration of the Arabic-Japanese week has been celebrated by the Arab embassies in Tokyo and a number of Japanese politicians and officials, including Minister of Finance Tarō Asō.
Shaalan, 22, dubbed by Japanese media as “Osunaarashi”, meaning the Egyptian sandstorm, was promoted last October to compete in the elite division known as “Makuuchi”. The division is comprised of the best 42 sumo players in the world.