Egyptian under-17 wrestler disappears in Rome following world championship

Investigations into Mohamed Essam's disappearance indicated that he intended to escape from his team and settle illegally in Italy

A general view taken from Capitoline Hill shows the ancient Roman Forum and the Colosseum monument on January 13, 2022 in Rome. (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP)
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Egyptian authorities have launched an investigation into the disappearance of an under-17 wrestler in Rome following his participation in a Greco-Roman wrestling championship.

The country’s sports ministry issued a statement on Sunday confirming that it was notified by the Egyptian delegation attending the U17 World Championships in the Italian capital that one of the team’s best players, Mohamed Essam, had left the hotel where the team was staying and had not been seen since the last day of the championship, July 31.

According to the statement, preliminary investigations indicated that Essam left the hotel voluntarily and that he was not taken by force, as he was seen on the hotel’s security camera leaving the premises.

He reportedly told his coach that he was going to buy something and return. The ministry’s media representative confirmed that Essam left all his belongings including his passport with the heads of the athletic delegation, as per protocol.

Upon their return from the championship, the heads of the Egyptian wrestling federation met sports minister Ashraf Sobhy to update him on the case, the ministry’s statement said.

Mr Sobhy then called sports authorities in the EU and the African Union to report Essam’s escape in a foreign country and to ensure he would not join any sports team in those regions.

A committee has been formed to investigate the matter further, the ministry said, and to ensure that the Egyptian delegation was not involved in Essam’s escape.

Residents of Malig, a small village in the Egyptian province of Menoufia where Essam is from, told Sky News Arabia that many of the village’s young men had also escaped to Italy through illegal means in the past, and that Essam’s family knew he was intending to escape once he got to Rome.

Updated: June 14, 2023, 10:05 AM