Iranian wrestler told to throw match to avoid facing Israeli
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Iranian wrestler told to throw match to avoid facing Israeli

With Uri Kalashnikov waiting in next round, Alireza Karimi-Machiani appears to give up against Russian opponent after voice heard yelling 'lose Alireza'

Iranian wrestler Alireza Karimi leading his match against Russia’s Alikhan Zhabrailov 3-2, when his coach can be heard from the sidelines instructing him to lose, at the World Championships in Poland, November 25, 2017. (screen capture: YouTube)
Iranian wrestler Alireza Karimi leading his match against Russia’s Alikhan Zhabrailov 3-2, when his coach can be heard from the sidelines instructing him to lose, at the World Championships in Poland, November 25, 2017. (screen capture: YouTube)

An Iranian wrestler appeared to throw a match on Saturday at a wrestling tournament in Poland in order to avoid facing an Israeli opponent in the next round.

Alireza Karimi-Machiani, who was leading against Russia’s Alikhan Zhabrailov at the Senior U23 World Championship, went on to lose the match after apparently being ordered to throw in the towel rather than square off against Israeli Uri Kalashnikov.

In a video clip of the bout, a voice can be heard yelling “lose Alireza” as the Iranian pulls ahead. Karimi-Machiani’s coach then called for a short break to consult with the wrestler, who upon returning to the ring went on to lose the match decisively.

Iran does not recognize Israel and bars its athletes from competing against Israelis at international competitions.

Critics in Iran say the ban on competing against Israel has hurt the development of Iranian athletes, forcing them to forfeit or pull out of competitions in which they might face Israeli athletes. But hardliners in the Islamic Republic insist that ideology trumps sports.

The last competition between Iranian and Israeli sportsmen on the international level dates back to a wrestling match in 1983 in Kiev, Ukraine. From time to time, Iranian players who play for foreign teams have played against Israeli teams.

Earlier this year, Iran’s soccer federation condemned two Iranians who play for a Greek team for participating in a match against an Israeli team and reportedly later barred them from the country’s national squad.

The issue of the treatment of Israeli athletes at international sporting events made headlines last month after Israeli medal winners at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam judo tournament were prohibited from displaying the Israeli flag, and the national anthem was not played for the Israeli who won a gold medal.

A judoka from the United Arab Emirates also refused to shake hands with his Israeli rival after losing a match.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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