Tehran’s ban on any contact with Israel has led to another case of an Iranian athlete being ordered to lose during an international competition. This policy is coming under growing criticism in Iran.
“Ali Resa lose!, Ali Resa you must lose!” echoed through the venue in Bydgoszcz, Poland in the final moments of one of the semifinals at the U23 wrestling World Championships.
This unbelievable but effective order from the Iranian coach to his athlete, Ali Resa Karimi (pictured above, right), can be clearly heard in a video recording of the semifinal.
The Iranian had a 3-2 lead over his opponent, Russia’s Alikhan Zhabrailov, with just moments to go in the bout. However, Karimi followed the orders of his coach, who was positioned at the edge of the mat, and demonstrably ceased to put up any resistance.
The 3-2 lead morphed into a 14-3 defeat in the last 14 seconds of the bout. The Iranian stayed motionless as he complied with the order, but there was no mistaking how angry this had made him.
The reason for this unsportsmanlike move by the Iranian coach was to be found in the other semifinal, which was going on at the same time.
The Israeli wrestler, Uri Kalashnikov, was up against Azamat Dauletbekov of Kazakhstan.
The Iranian officials expected Kalashnikov to win, meaning that had Karimi won, he would have had to face the Israeli, something they were determined to avoid at all costs.
This is because since 1983 the Iranian state has banned all of its athletes from competing against Israelis – officially because Tehran hasn’t recognized the state of Israel and out of “solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people.”
Mockery and criticism on Iranian social media
The video of the bout spread like wildfire on the Internet and quickly became the hottest topic of discussion among Iranian users.
“It’s unbelievable that one KOs oneself. It’s the fate of a bitter humiliation that the politicians have condemned our athletes to,” one tweet said.
Another user wrote: “A national athlete is a representative of his country on an international stage. The national athlete defends his country like a soldier. What do you mean ‘you have to lose?’ Shame on you. What kind of leadership do we have in our country?”
Another comment reads: “It is a disgrace for any public figure to destroy the dignity and pride of an athlete for the sake of preserving his own corrupted power.”
Another comment, like many others, summed up the hypocrisy of the Iranian position: “It is utterly absurd for Iranians to avoid competing with Israelis out of solidarity with the Palestinians, when Palestinian athletes have no problem competing against Israeli athletes.”
Karimi heads home empty handed
Meanwhile, Ali Resa Karimi posted a line from a well-known song by exiled Iranian dissident Dariush Eghbali via his Instagram account: “Silence is the last protective shield; we will never get our rights.” This statement could land Karimi in hot water with the authorities.
As if things weren’t already bad enough for Karimi, as it turned out there was no reason to throw the fight. The Iranian officials who decided that he needed to do so got it wrong. As it turned out, the Israeli wrestler lost his bout to his Kazakh opponent. This set up a bronze-medal bout between the Iranian and Israeli wrestlers, but Karimi pulled out of it due to “illness.”
It remains to be seen what, if any action United World Wrestling, the sport’s world governing body, could take over the incident. International sports federations have previously pledged to impose sanctions on Iran over this sort of behavior, which Iran has made a habit of over the past more than three decades. There has even been talk of banning entire teams.