Members of Iranian parliament will officially question the Minister of Sports, asking him to explain the case of a young wrestler who deliberately lost a match to avoid facing an Israeli opponent in the next round.
Alireza Karimi, in a match against Alikhan Zhabrilov of Russia last Saturday, was 3-2 ahead in the fourth minute when apparently his trainers instructed him from the sidelines to throw the match.
In a video clip depicting the 86-kilogram category of the Senior U23 World Championship match held in Poland, a voice can be heard clearly instructing Karimi to lose the match.
“Alireza, lose! You must lose, Alireza!” the voice urged Karimi.
Then, apparently as a precaution, Karimi’s caoch asked for time out and talked to the young wrestler in private.
Karimi returned to the mat, opened up his guard against Zhabrilov and let the Russian finish him off and win by using consecutive leg lace or ankle locks, a technique Iranian wrestlers are renowned for easily defending against.
Had Karimi won the match, he would have faced Uri Kalashnikov of Israel in the next round.
Instead, Zhabrilov beat Kalashnikov and reached the final. Karimi was then directly obliged to face his Israeli opponent for the bronze medal.
The Iranian side was left with no other option but to use its old trick, declaring Karimi injured and unable to compete. Iran gave the Israeli athlete a walkover match on a silver platter.
Karimi by forfeiting the match against the Russian and feigning injury against the Israeli generated a wave of reactions that has now reached the parliament.
Referring to Karimi in a tweet, Tehran’s MP, Gholamreza Haidari has lambasted what he has described as “wasting the spiritual and material rights of Iranian athletes”, adding “These athletes carry the burden of Iranian diplomacy and our sports system’s paradoxes on their shoulders”.
Haidari has promised to officially question the minister of Sports in an open session of parliament and demand an explanation.
Earlier, two members of reformist faction Omid (Hope), Bahram Parsayee and Abdol-Karim Hassanzadeh had declared that they were going to legally sue Iranian Wrestling Federation officials for urging Karimi to deliberately lose to his Russian opponent and present his Israeli peer a walk-over win.
However, the Islamic Republic’s ministry of sports has praised Karimi’s performance and presented him ten golden coins (worth roughly $4000).
Meanwhile, Karimi has bitterly complained that the Islamic Republic’s authorities have deceived him.
In an interview with Radio Tehran, Karimi said, “I have been politically abused and played with as a political instrument”.
According to Karimi, he was told that he was going to attend a private ceremony where the president, Hassan Rouhani and the minister of Youth Affairs and Sports would also be present to show their gratitude.
“I went there, but, soon, I found out that [the president and his minister were not there, the gathering was not private and] they just wanted to politically use me. They presented me with ten gold coins in front of cameramen and reporters. I repeat that I believe they wanted to use me as a political tool until the [controversy] is over”.
Karimi reiterated that he was embarrassed for being used as a political instrument.
On Twitter, users created a hashtag labeled as #YouMustLose that has triggered hundreds of comments.
Most of the users believe Iran’s policy barring its athletes competing against Israeli peers has been detrimental for Iranian teams and athletes.
The New York Times also cited him as saying, “I do accept that Israel is an oppressor and commits crimes, but would it not be oppression if our authorities undermine my hard work again?”
Meanwhile, the head of Iran’s Wrestling Federation, Rasoul Khadem noted, “The Islamic Republic’s policy for facing Israeli opponents need updating”.
In an interview with reformist daily, Etemad on Tuesday, November 28, Khadem insisted that Palestinians do not know that Iranian athletes throw matches against their Israeli opponents to show their solidarity with them.
“Nobody, save Israelis, are aware of the reason behind Iranian athletes’ decision to deliberately lose against their Israeli peers”.
The International Wrestling Federation has not yet reacted to Karimi’s case.
United World Wrestling has rules stating that the unexcused and purposeful withdrawal from a competition is a punishable offense (rule 7.2.d-e). Furthermore, rule 8.2 stipulates:
“Any official or coach who incites a wrestler to leave the victory to his/her opponent shall be disqualified for the event and shall be prohibited from representing his/her national federation during events held under the control of the Federation for a period of 1 month to 3 years”.