Iranian wrestler loses fight to avoid fighting Israeli

Iranian wrestler Alireza Karimi Mashiani intentionally loses a fight because winning would mean fighting an opponent from Israel.

Elad Benari ,

Boxing ring
Boxing ring

The Iranian government on Monday hailed one of the country's wrestlers who intentionally lost a fight because winning would have meant fighting an opponent from Israel, AFP reported.

The story of wrestler Alireza Karimi Mashiani has struck a chord on social media, with many in Iran backing his stance but some also opposing it, noted the news agency.

His bout was in the Polish city of Bydgoszcz on Saturday, in the 86-kilo category of the under-23 world championships.

Footage posted online showed that Karimi Mashiani looked well ahead in his bout against Russia's Alikhan Zabrailov but then let himself be easily beaten.

The Iranian athlete seems to abandon the fight completely and lets himself be dominated after a voice shouts out in Persian, "You must lose, Alireza!"

Karimi Mashiani received the backing of his government and the Iranian wrestling federation, noted AFP.

"Your noble and heroic action in the world competition in Poland, abandoning the medal and the podium in support of the highest human values, is a source of pride and praise," an official statement on the website of the youth and sports ministry said, addressing the young wrestler.

The country's wrestling federation in its own statement called him a "hero" and extolled his "sacrifice", hinting that he had acted in a similar manner previously in 2013.

"It is the second time that you have risen up against the oppression of the Palestinian people by abandoning your rights in an act of absolute submission," the federation wrote.

The coach of Iran’s national free wrestling team, Mohammad Talaie, called Karimi Mashiani a "deserving young man" and appealed for this to be recognized by the authorities.

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

This past 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.

This past 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.