Khamenei praises chess prodigy who refused to play Israeli

Watch: Iranian TV report shows chess prodigy's meeting with the country’s Supreme Leader after he refused to play Israeli at tournament.

Elad Benari ,

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iran’s Channel 1 TV recently aired a report about Iranian chess prodigy Aryan Gholami's meeting with the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who praised him for refusing to play against an Israeli chess player at the Rilton Cup chess tournament that took place in Sweden.

The reporter said that Gholami "'checked' the dollar and 'mated' the oppression." Gholami was interviewed and said that he decided to refuse playing the Israeli representative quickly and gave up on the $10,000 prize.

“He refused to play a representative of the Zionist regime, thus losing the gold medal and the dollars, but he wore the medal of humanity and honor,” said the reporter.

The report was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

Athletes from Muslim countries that do not recognize Israel or have any relations with the Jewish state often refuse to play against Israelis. In some cases, those countries ban Israelis from entering and participating in sporting events. When Israelis are permitted entry, they are not allowed to wear any Israeli symbols and the national anthem is not played.

In 2017, Iranian chess officials banned a 15-year-old from domestic chess tournaments and the national team after he played against an Israeli opponent at an international chess event.

While Saudi Arabia and Iran are regional rivals, they are no different in their treatment of Israeli players. In December of 2018, the World Blitz & Rapid Championships in chess was relocated from Saudi Arabia to Russia after the kingdom refused to grant visas to Israeli players.

In January, an eight-year-old Lebanese chess prodigy appeared on Lebanese television and explained that he had refused to compete against an Israeli player during a chess championship in Spain because Israel is an enemy.

The eight-year-old also spoke with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah after his move. Hezbollah is a close ally of Iran and is considered its proxy in Lebanon.