Iranian wrestler throws bout to avoid match against an Israeli

An Iranian wrestler intentionally lost a bout to avoid fighting an Israeli opponent in the next round.

At the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the Iranian wrestler Alireza Karimi-Machiani, right, lost to the American J’Den Cox.
Jack Guez AFP/Getty Images

In the fourth minute of the encounter, Karimi was beating his opponent, the Russian wrestler Alikhan Zhabrailov, when coaches instructed him to throw the bout. At the moment of the instruction, the Iranian was leading 3-2. The fight ended 3-14 for the Zhabrailov.

The Islamic Republic of Iran does not recognize the Jewish Republic, and forbids its sportsmen from competing against Israelis.

“You must lose, Alireza!”

In a clip of the fight, a man’s voice, suspected to be Karimi’s trainer, can be heard saying “you must lose, Alireza!”.

According to the BBC, after giving the order to the wrestler, the trainer stopped the match to speak privately with Karimi, who later returned to lose abruptly.

On Tuesday, the wrestler spoke to local press, saying that his coach told him to throw the match to avoid facing an Israeli.

Iran’s government federation praises Karimi

Karimi received the backing of the Iran’s authorities, who called his actions “noble” and “heroic”.

“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,” reads an official statement on the website of the youth and sports ministry.

Also, Iran’s Wrestling Federation gave its own praiseful statement.

'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.

فدراسیون کشتی در حمایت از علی رضا کریمی آزادکار شایسته وزن ۸۶ کیلوگرم کشورمان در رقابت های جهانی بیانیه ی صادر کرد. به گزارش روابط عمومی فدراسیون کشتی؛ متن این بیانیه به شرح زیر است: به پهلوان علیرضا کریمی عزیز این دومین باریست که تو با گذشتن از حق خودت ، در مظلومیت تمام، از مظلومیت مردم فلسطین دفاع می کنی ..... مردمی که شاید هیچ گاه در جریان این فداکاری تو نباشند....... بار اول در مسابقات جهانی جوانان در کشور بلغارستان در سال 2013، با از خود گذشتگی تو، تیم کشتی ایران از سکوی دوم به سکوی سوم افتاد و این بار در مسابقات جهانی امید در کشور لهستان، از سکوی سوم به جایگاه هشتم سقوط کرد.... هیچ کس، حتی یادآور این نشد، که تو و کشتی ایران ، برای احترام به مردم فلسطین، با گذشتن از جایگاه واقعی خود، نتیجه زحمات خود را از دست دادید،... آنهایی که ورزش قهرمانی را می شناسند، می دانند برای یک قهرمان و برای تیم ملی هر کشوری، کسب نتیجه در مسابقات اصلی یعنی همه چیز .... یعنی همه عمری که گذاشته ای ... یعنی همه گذشته ات و حتی همه آنچه که در آینده می خواهی به آن برسی... علیرضا عزیز ، شاید امروز کسانی که به عنوان مسئول، می باید بیش از همه سپاسگزار ایثار و پهلوانی تو باشند ، در کنارت نیستند... اما مردمی که باید تورا ببینند و فداکاریت را درک کنند و قدر دان صبر و گذشت تو باشند، تورا می بینند و در کنار تو هستند...... پهلوان علیرضا کریمی مظلومیت تو ، برای خانواده بزرگ کشتی ایران فراموش نشدنی است .....

Una publicación compartida por Iran Wrestling Federation (@iranwrestling) el


After the event, the hashtag #youmustlose became trending on Twitter.

Several users were hostile against Iran’s authorities, while others celebrated the wrestler’s actions.

'I feel that Alireza Karimi's trainer intentionally shouted 'Alireza lose', 'you need to lose', 'you must lose'. This was a sign for us to see the dirty people behind the curtain of his defeat. We needed to see how the dirty politics of a group of dirty people caused your efforts to be blown away with the wind,' reads a comment by Tweeter user @persianhuman.

“We will not step onto the mat against Israel until the army of Islam triumphantly steps onto the Holy Land of Palestine,” reads a Tweet by user Javad Jalali.

In August, two Iranian footballers, Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Haji Safi, part of the roster of the Greek club Panionios, were suspended from the national team for playing a match against Maccabi Tel Aviv, an Israeli side.

After posting an apology on Instagram, Ehsan was allowed to continue to play for the national side. While on the other hand, Masoud was dishonorably discharged.