16 February 2024




Rufat Hajili is the chief of IBSA Presidential office and assistant of IBSA President, Mr Ilgar Rahimov. His journey started by being part of the Azerbaijan Paralympic Committee as the head of international relations and marketing. During this time, he was already in close collaboration with President Mr Rahimov who is also former President of Azerbaijan Paralympic Committee. Mr Hajili, who was a judoka himself during his childhood, have not only gained plenty of experience throughout his journey, but also a wife.

Chief of IBSA Presidential office and assistant of IBSA President, Mr. Rufat Hajili and his wife, Paralympic Champion, Sevda Valiyeva. © Rufat Hajili

The first time when we had an IBSA Grand Prix in Azerbaijan in 2019, I met my wife, Sevda Valiyeva. Following that, we got engaged and after the Tokyo Paralympic Games [where she won gold], we got married.

Tokyo was the first Paralympic Games for me, but I think no other previous games were better than this because we gained 14 gold medals for Azerbaijan, 6 of this were from judo. This put us amongst the top 10 of the overall medal table. It was a magnificent achievements of Azerbaijan.

Mr Hajili has been appointed the Chef de Mission of the Azeri team for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. However, he still fulfils his duties under the IBSA committee. 

Following the Tokyo games, I remained working at the Azerbaijan Paralympic Committee and at the same time I am working with the President of IBSA. Now, we are working on the reform of IBSA and building a good partnership with IJF and other sport organisations, but especially with IJF. We are working on a memorandum of understanding between IJF and IBSA which should be signed in a few months.


Chief of IBSA Presidential office and assistant of IBSA President, Mr. Rufat Hajili. © Rufat Hajili

For Germany, Mr Hajili arrived to continue with his split roles. 

I am here with the Azerbaijan team. At the Paralympics my favourite sport is judo, I love judo and being with the team. Events are organised at high level, and you get to see these high-level judoka in action. I really think the best sport in IBSA is judo.

Of course, I am also here to observe on behalf of the IBSA office, especially of the classification. Also looking at sport management and the work of the local organisers.

Tokyo to Paris?

The biggest change is definitely the classification, but I think there should be more work done with the mechanism of the classification and it should be improved. Our President has some suggestions to change the classification to improve the conditions. Upon his election we already created conditions for sports sector, antidoping, classifications etcetera, and these conditions are helping towards the development of the sport overall.

With the changes, now we have more J1 judoka. This is a great achievement. Work still to be done of course, especially around the weight categories and upping the number of events as well as introduce tournaments to younger VI judoka, from grassroot level.

How did IJF coming on board change, if at all, the dynamic of these events? 

Of course, it makes IBSA judo more powerful. Thanks to IJF for its contributions and support, we became more popular and professional.


Author: Szandra Szogedi