Head of Iran’s wrestling federation quits over Israel policy

Head of Iran’s wrestling federation resigns after criticizing authorities for letting athletes pay the price for ban on facing Israelis.

Elad Benari,

Boxing ring (illustration)
Boxing ring (illustration)

The head of Iran’s wrestling federation resigned on Wednesday after criticizing authorities for letting athletes pay the price for the ban on facing Israeli opponents, AFP reported.

In a somewhat cryptic letter published on the federation’s website, Wrestling Federation Rasoul Khadem suggested he had been forced from his post, saying “apparently it is not going to work out” because of “my awkward mentality”.

“I cannot lie. Sometimes the best way to take a stand is not to stand,” he wrote.

Khadem had recently criticized Iranian authorities for their approach to competing against Israeli opponents.

His criticism followed a six-month ban given to Iran’s Alireza Karimi Mashiani by the United World Wrestling Disciplinary Chamber for deliberately losing a match at the under-23 world championships in Poland in November in order to avoid an Israeli opponent in the next round.

His coach Hamidreza Jamshidi was banned for two years. Iran said recently it will protest the ban.

Khadem argued that Iranians should openly admit they will not compete against Israelis rather than invent excuses, and accept the consequences, according to AFP.

“If we must continue with the policy of non-competition against the Zionist regime’s athletes, the responsibility cannot fall on the shoulders of the coach and the athlete,” he was quoted as having said on public radio.

He said a “fundamental solution” needed to be reached by the Supreme Council for National Security.

“Forcing an athlete to accept defeat or run around all night looking for a doctor’s note is not right,” he added.

The Islamic Republic does not recognize Israel and forbids its sportsmen from competing against Israelis.

Last summer, Iran dropped two soccer players from its national team after they played against Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv for their Greek club Panionios.

Iran later appeared to cancel the ban after a huge outcry from soccer fans on social media and the launch of an investigation by FIFA, which has rules against political interference in national teams.

Last February, a 15-year-old Iranian chess player was banned from the national team after he played against an Israeli opponent at an international chess event.

In 2011, Iranian chessmaster Ehsan Ghaem Maghami was expelled from an international chess tournament after refusing to play an Israeli opponent.

Last year, an Iranian refused to compete against an Israeli at a chess tournament in Switzerland in order to reject the existence of "the Zionist state".

In 2010, an Iranian contestant withdrew from a Taekwondo match against Israel’s Gili Haimovitz, who won a gold medal by default.

In 2012, Iranian athletes announced their intention to boycott competitions against Israelis at the London Olympics.