Iran said to pull out of deaf futsal championships to avoid facing Israeli team
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Iran said to pull out of deaf futsal championships to avoid facing Israeli team

Iranians’ withdrawal reportedly comes after they threatened to boycott tournament unless they are moved to a group that doesn’t include Israel

Illustrative: The Iranian national team plays against Kazakhstan at the Asia Pacific Deaf Futsal Championships on February 22, 2019, in Bangkok, Thailand. (Screen capture: YouTube)
Illustrative: The Iranian national team plays against Kazakhstan at the Asia Pacific Deaf Futsal Championships on February 22, 2019, in Bangkok, Thailand. (Screen capture: YouTube)

After the Iranian Judo federation was banned by international sports authorities from all competitions over its boycott of Israeli athletes, another Iranian sports team has reportedly pulled out of a competition to avoid facing an Israeli squad.

Israel and Iran were placed in the same group in the upcoming World Deaf Futsal Championships, along with Argentina and Sweden. Israel was due to play against Iran on Saturday.

The Iranians said they wouldn’t show up to the tournament in Switzerland unless they were moved to a different group, Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reported Thursday. When that didn’t happen, they withdrew from the competition entirely.

Futsal is similar to soccer, with five players per side on a small court.

The Iranian team had won the Asia Pacific Deaf Futsal Championships in February.

Iran does not recognize Israel as a country and Iranian sports teams have for several decades had a policy of not competing against Israelis. Iranian passports remind holders in bold red that they are “not entitled to travel to occupied Palestine.”

Last month, the International Judo Federation (IJF) banned Iran from competition indefinitely over the country’s refusal to face Israeli competitors.

The federation issued a provisional ban in September while investigating a report that Iran had ordered a judoka to lose deliberately at the world championships to avoid facing Israeli competitor Sagi Muki in the subsequent round.

The IJF said the suspension would remain in place until the Iran Judo Federation “gives strong guarantees and proves that they will respect the IJF Statutes and accept that their athletes fight against Israeli athletes.”

Iran’s judoka Saeid Mollaei reacts after losing to Belgium’s Matthias Casse in the semifinal fight in the men’s under-81 kilogram category during the 2019 Judo World Championships in Tokyo on August 28, 2019. (Charly Triballeau/AFP)

Iranian fighter Saeid Mollaei, defending his title at the Tokyo World Championships in August, had said he was ordered to throw his semifinal rather than risk facing an Israeli in the final of the under-81kg class.

The Iranian, 27, lost the semifinal and then went on to lose his third-place fight. Mollaei said he had been instructed to withdraw from the competition by the presidents of the Iran Judo Federation and the Iran Olympic committee.

Rejecting the charges, the Iranian federation denied that pressure had been applied to force Mollaei to withdraw from the championships.

Judo is one of Iran’s sporting strong points and the ban was a blow ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

AFP contributed to this report.

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